In this business, like so many others, you never exhale and get comfortable. As the Paul Douglas layoff at WCCO showed last week, the end can come at any time. As many have pointed out, Douglas will be fine. But he was only one of several to get the boot. He had the benefit of being the face in front of the camera. A bunch of others at WCCO are similarly going to be chopped through buyouts.
Around the CBS empire last week, lots of people lost their jobs, and a lot of flaks — spokespersons — had to reassure the public that nothing will change, which sounds like one final insult to the dearly departed.
For example. In Boston, 30 people were let go last week. Said a spokeswoman:
“There have been staff reductions stationwide as a result of our restructuring for efficiencies and streamlining our operations while maintaining quality programming and service to the community.”
In San Francisco, five journalists were among those eliminated. And the San Francisco Chronicle reported…
KPIX spokeswoman Akilah Monifa said the cutbacks won’t affect the station’s coverage or any of its newscasts. Last month, the station added another 30-minute newscast to its lineup, producing a 10 p.m. program on sister station KBCW, staffed by their prime-time parent news team.
It’s a familiar theme: “we’re getting rid of people, but it won’t affect our coverage.” How is that possible unless those let go weren’t contributing quality programming in the first place? And nobody seems to be saying that.
The term “quality,” of course, is a definition in the eye (or ear) of the beholder. On the first night after announcing the cuts, WCCO provided a story on the history of the hockey puck. Two other stories in the newscast were provided by the same reporter.
The Star Tribune and Pioneer Press have cut back their staffs in recent years. Has it made a difference? The Pulitzers are being announced today and the Star Tribune is in the running for one based on its coverage of the bridge disaster.
If it has, then what we have here is a Catch 22 situation, the depths of which aren’t yet clear. Cutbacks change the quality, the change in quality means a loss in readers/viewers/listeners, which results in lost revenue, which inspires more cutbacks.
How can that cycle change?