The print media have been very thorough in reporting our own dwindling newsrooms, but the story that isn't told as often concerns The Monster that awaits those left behind. Thus, here's the backstory and the scoop.
The New Politics of Print
The mayhem going on behind the mastheads of some of your favorite magazines and newspapers is unprecedented.
Suddenly, the reporter who covers one beat must now cover two, or perhaps four. In addition to the increased workload and concurrent deadlines, you'd better be blogging and Twittering your tired tail off or you may be labeled as a dinosaur.
And we all know what happens to dinosaurs of the newsroom -- they become tell-all authors or ornery drunks, and not necessarily in that order.
The perks of print journalism, aka the poor man's profession, have faded. The lavish junkets just don't happen the way they used to and if you should ask for meager travel expenses to attend a professional workshop or annual conference you'd better brace yourself for a blank, icy stare. Speaking of ice, if you cough at your desk -- in the age of swine flu -- and you may receive a pink slip before lunch. Speaking of lunch, expect a shouting match to occur in the breakroom between stressed out journos over stolen -- or missing -- cheese curls.
As editor of N'Digo, http://www.ndigo.com a weekly, we are profile-driven and historically, we have not known the woes of the bustling daily newsroom. I can tell you quite frankly that in this unprecedented age of print's power struggle, we have become well-acquainted with the ugly side of print. And the ugliness is unsettling.
Enter The Monster.
The Monster is the fusion of entitlement and desperation that results in some very ugly acts by otherwise professional people. The Monster has totally caught me off guard, and I've asked several colleagues about their experiences, and YES, they have also seen The Monster.
Monster #1: The New Age Job Seeker
Generally speaking, our office receives up to 20 resumes a week, mostly from college students seeking internships and broadcast professionals electing to delve into writing as a second career. These resumes are often quite good, and we incorporate the most promising contributors whenever we can.
And then The Monster appeared: A young, working journalist for another suburban weekly, sent his resume, which was good. I shot him an e-mail to inform him that he's on the radar of potential contributors and I will definitely reach out if an opportunity presented itself. The Monster replied, "your offer to contribute was unsatisfactory" being that he "wanted a full-time job with benefits and dental." Well, I surely didn't meet his requirements, so I responded, "I understand. Good luck with your search."
And then The Monster called. Before I could tell him again that we didn't have a position, he told me that he tried to add me as a friend on Facebook and I hadn't responded.
Oh, and that he's following me on Twitter, did I get the e-mail about that?
To put it mildly, I was shocked.
As I was slowly returning the phone to the receiver, I could hear The Monster confirming an in-the-flesh interview. "So, I'll be downtown on Monday, so how about I stop by and discuss what you have available."
That's when I nipped it in the bud, or so I thought. "We don't have full-time position," I replied, and added firmly, "FOR YOU."
"Oh," he says. "And you're completely satisfied with the assistant you're working with now? I'm surely more qualified. I'm a go-getter."
"Well, go-get em, Tiger," I said as I hung up the phone. That was two weeks ago. The Monster has sent three follow-up emails confirming an in-the-flesh interview that was never offered for a full-time position that didn't exist and thus was also never offered.
Monster #2: The Publicity Hound
On the flip side of the aggressive job seeker is the publicity hound, that happens to be blessed with unmitigated gall.
In this case, a contributor wrote a fashion column on accessories and it was slated to run the following week. Lo and behold, an advertiser increased his one-page ad to two full pages on press night, and thus the accessories column had to be held over. We placed the column online and set to revise and update it for the following issue.
The contributor was informed of our editorial decision and less than five minutes later, The Publicity Hound Monster appeared.
This monster was one of the new local designers featured in the column. Here's the text from her email: "[The reporter] told me that the feature on me and my accessories would not appear in this week's paper. You have caused me great cost to my reputation and my business because I told my growing clientele base that the article would appear and it will not."
I shot the designer an email explaining that the fashion column was published online, and that we were contractually obligated to place the paid advertisement. I also added that we would revise it and publish it immediately. [Not to mention that because news is fluid, print media do not generally guarantee editorial coverage, only paid advertisements.]
The Publicity Hound Monster retorted: "I understand that you had to print the ad. But from where I'm standing, you could have cut something else out."
After a closer look, that fashion column is just a little too long.