My short-lived trip back to the newsroom

Betting on Gannett didn’t pay off this time

About a month into the job at The Tennessean, working on two laptops and a desktop computer.

Getting oriented back into a newsroom included working with two laptops and a desktop computer, relying on my old systems while I learned the new ones.

Well I gave it a shot. I placed the bet, rolled the dice and crapped out. I know “crapped out” isn’t the correct term (I’m looking at you, Mary Lawrence) but I spent an inordinate amount of time looking for the right gambling analogy and, well, crapped out.

Just a few days past my one-year anniversary at The Tennessean in Nashville, I joined the ranks of the unemployed. (It also happened just four days after my birthday.)

Intellectually I knew this could happen (see what I wrote when I took the job) but being forever optimistic, I didn’t think it would. But it did: The Tennessean eliminated my position of visual coach.

Intellectually I can see why this needed to happen: the position wasn’t working as sketched out on paper and this particular newsroom (as compared to others in Gannett) has needs or ways of doing things that didn’t fit the model well.

In 2014 Gannett adopted the Newsroom of the Future model, in which it restructured the newsroom to a new reporter-centered, self -driven style. In this mode, the individual journalist is the center or the hub, driving the news report, and what used to be editors and department heads serve as supporting spokes in this journalistic wheel.

This model, though, doesn’t work for a photo staff, which handles photo requests from all around the newsroom — they can’t be self-driven in the same way as word reporters if those photojournalists are also to be responsible for executing the visuals for the stories the word reporters turn out. The photo staff still needed someone in the office who would help plan and organize those photo requests. So for about 10 months I tried to strike a balance between the position as outlined on paper, the position I felt was needed for the photo staff and newsroom, and the position as upper management wanted it defined. It wasn’t working out.

Intellectually it was good for the company to see something that wasn’t working and taking fairly swift action to change things. In the current state of journalism, news organizations are operating more like start-up businesses, closely watching every position, every nickel and dime, assessing the ROI. These organizations can’t afford to wait for years to see if something’s going to work — we are in a “fail fast and move on” culture. This newsroom decided that my position just wasn’t working out and the money would be better spent somewhere else. The Tennessean eliminated the Engagement Editor position (held by Beth Inglish) back in July in similar fashion, and has changed around many of the positions from the original newsroom plan.

Intellectually what has happened to me makes a fair amount of sense.

But in my next post I’ll tell you more about the non-intellectual aspects of losing your job. I’ve discovered that for far too many of you, this won’t be news to you. For those of you, I’m sorry you’ve had to go through this and I admire that you did indeed make it through to the other side.


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