Saturday, July 11, 2009

Neglecting the blogs ...

Admittedly, I've been neglecting my Politizine and OurConcord Web sites, mostly due to work commitments, which have been pretty overwhelming lately.
A few weeks ago, the staff reporter I worked with took another job in the industry. We were all excited for her but it left a huge hole. Because I haven't had staff support, I have been putting in a lot more than the 45-plus hours per week I normally put into the job, in order to get everything done and maintain what I have always believed was my own personal work standard.
Frankly, it has not been easy trying to maintain the standard alone. In fact, it has been nearly impossible to continue to be one of the top home page poster of the 100-plus weeklies, produce video content, a weekly email alert, weekly poll, numerous blog posts, writing even more stories and editorials [one week it was seven and the next two weeks it was nine ...], and producing, granted, a small print edition. It gave me a broad, albeit short, view into the world of what it is like to be a single editor running an entire operation, trying to meet high journalistic standards while delivering what customers want and expect [thankfully, the reporter was replaced with another from within the company. But, shockingly 14 other newspapers in the unit I work in have no other staff support, just correspondents, and it's not bound to get better].
Needless to say, it's extremely difficult, even in a busy and active town where the stories just fall off the trees. So, you can understand why things might fall by the wayside, or, you would at least assume why some things might.
On top of this, I'm trying to spend more time at home so that my wife can devout more time to her freelance business, in order to make up the difference of a 7 percent corporate pay cut. As things get worse, and they probably will, who knows what will happen. And yet, the journalistic standard - personal, corporate, reader, whatever - remains, nearly impossible to fill in a 40-plus hour workweek.
As I have flipped back and forth between radio and newspapers numerous times during the last decade-plus, the threshold of what is expected from employees keeps changing. Consumers want more for less; management wants more for less, etc. Essentially, the finish line keeps being moved forward while management and owners fiddle with everything under the sun, unable to predict the future and in some cases, unable to make the smallest decision about what is best. Sometimes, they make extremely bad decisions. They are only human, after all. We all make mistakes. But shouldn't employees be honest about what they are feeling and shouldn't they have more of a role than just mopping up the mess and trying to make due? We're all in the boat together, right?
At some point, it just breaks. For many, it already has. I can count on four or five sets of hands the number of talented broadcasters and journalists who have left [or been driven out of] the business due to these factors when it simply didn't need to be this way. And yet, it didn't have to be this way. I know from my reading that there is really a difference between management and leadership and it is clear. It isn't easy to change from moving the chairs on the Titanic to making sure that everyone gets off the boat safely and soundly. Should employees be inspired and driven to reach new heights or driven and inspired to flee?
I don't claim to have all the answers. I know I don't. Everyone seems to be in the same pickle these days. But it clear is that something needs to be done to keep the news business alive while at the same time keeping quality employees engaged, activated, and feeling as if they have a role in the future - instead of fearing the future. There are other things too but I want to get on to enjoying my weekend ...
Back to the blogs. I don't know what the future holds for them frankly. As can happen, a couple of times a year, I begin to question and wonder what I'm doing with them and whether or not they are worth the time. I honestly don't know. I had a short conversation with a family member the other day and I realized in the course of that conversation that I am technically middle aged. At 44, I'm probably past what was once considered middle-aged [A Google search of "how old is middle age" revealed 96 million entries on the topic ... Wikipedia says that the U.S. Census lists middle age at 35-44 and 45-54 ... so, that's about right, correct?]
I keep coming back to the book ideas I'm never going to finish, the degree I never finished, the fact that I'm not learning much or growing from much that I'm doing. Sure, life is an education. Family always needs more, and that's fulfilling. But, I need more too and I don't quite know how to bring about that change that will allow me to grow personally and professionally.
I wonder, what are all of you doing out there? Do you think about these things? Do you prospect for the future or does it fall in your lap? Do you analyze the fork in the road or just take one route in the hope that if you make a mistake, you can turn around and drive back? Or, are you just doing whatever you can to get by? Let me know, I'm interested in having an online conversation about how other folks are handling everything that is going on in the world.

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