Posted on | April 23, 2012 | 18 Comments
Walter Russell Mead finds amusement in New York Times employees — members of the Writers Guild union — whining about a proposal to substitute 401(k)s for their current bloated pension plan:
Nobody in the video talks about the changes in the news business that threatens to drive the Times into a deep dive. Nobody talks about the prospect of future significant staff cuts if costs can’t be contained. None of them discuss the incongruity between their own naive sense of entitlement and what is going on in the cities, companies and countries they cover.
They just want the money.
Some writers allude to the prospect of leaving the paper if the pension change goes through, but a quick check of the newspaper business suggests they don’t have all that many options. Certainly with the exception of a handful of superstars the New York Times would have less trouble replacing its current staff than the current staff would have in replacing their jobs. And if those new jobs are in journalism, good luck finding a company with a generous defined benefit pension plan.
Indeed. Perhaps the NYT’s grumbling newsroom proletariat should read about working conditions for young bloggers at the Washington Post.
The days of easy money and “banker’s hours” in the news business are definitely over, and the Writers Guild mentality is part of the problem, not part of the solution. I’m reminded of a line from Ghostbusters, after they’ve lost their university research gigs:
Personally, I liked the university. They gave us money and facilities. We didn’t have to produce anything. You’ve never been out of college! You don’t know what it’s like out there! I’ve worked in the private sector. They expect results.
Too many people in the upper echelons of the news industry never had a reason to think about the bottom line. The first newspaper I ever worked for — a tiny weekly in Austell, Georgia — went out of business five months after I started there. There was no warning; I went out to cover a high-school football game on Friday night and on Saturday morning got a phone call telling me to come pick up my final paycheck.
My next job was selling menswear in a department store.
That experience in 1986 was an early and unpleasant introduction to the economic reality of the news business, a valuable lesson that might have something to do with whatever success I’ve subsequently had. Many citizen-journalists have a much better understanding of economic reality than do the members of the Writers Guild.
Da Tech Guy has some interesting suggestions about the intersection of Old School journalism and New Media. He knows what a hard dollar it can be — please don’t forget to hit his tip jar.