Scott Ehrisman reports that that Sioux Falls paper has axed several veteran reporters. I read the paper's own Sunday description of its newsroom changes and find a distressing absence of specifics on actual news activities. President and publisher Bill Albrecht and executive editor Maricarrol Kueter call their new senior management team "talented journalists," but the new functions they highlight seem to have less to do with journalism and more to do with marketing:
- Patrick Lalley is now called the "content strategist." That means he will "oversee the newsroom’s expanded content generation effort." That's not journalism; that's management. And journalists don't produce content; they write news.
- Cory Myers is now called the "consumer experience director." Myers "will study digital metrics and use audience feedback to assist reporters as they refine their approaches to their coverage beats," which sounds distressingly like training reporters to engineer their output with search engine optimization tricks rather than focusing on digging for good information, challenging authority, and writing great reports whose quality speaks for itself and enlightens the citizenry. And hey: we're not consumers; we are fellow citizens, for whom the Fourth Estate performs a vital function.
- Jodi Schwan is now an "audience analyst." Along with editing the Sioux Falls Business Journal, Schwan will "analyze audience metrics and market trends and work with marketing and advertising staffs as well as with the local news staff to identify opportunities for new products and new coverage approaches." This position is marketing, not journalism.
I know you can't walk into a meeting with corporate and say your plan for the paper is to do the best darn journalism in South Dakota. That's the kind of nutty talk you hear from some blogger who just slogs away writing one punchy, well-researched blog post after another and doesn't invest in SEO or marketing. You've got to tell corporate you've got new titles and metrics and strategies that will boost profits and Tweet-Klout X.Y%. And alas, it looks like you've got to make room for all sors of new positions and marketing strategies while spending less on real journalists practicing real journalism.
You do your business model, Bill and Maricarrol. I'll do mine. I look forward to comparing journalism-to-marketing ratios.