Joe Kollin, a veteran Sun-Sentinel reporter who recently began a condo living column in the newspaper, is a journalist with principles. And the latest proof of this, the full glory of which is printed below, shows that he also owns something else: gonads the size of Florida grapefruits.
In this month's edition of the Columbia Journalism Review, he calls bullshit on his own newspaper's management techniques to give CJR readers "more evidence" why the Tribune Co., which pays his salary, "should get out of the newspaper business."
He writes in a letter to the editor that the "size of the staff has shrunk so much that we are leaving communities ignored and uncovered. Since the newspaper's Web site gets its news from the newspaper, the Web site also suffers."
Kollin is, of course, dead-on about this -- and it's something the Pulp has mourned in the past. Then he addresses the ongoing bait-and-switch being pulled by his newspaper when it comes to coverage. Basically, while the newspaper shrinks staff and provides less news, the Sentinel's brass has been boasting to the public of "more local news" (most notable example being Editor Earl Maucker's Christmas Eve column). When the newspaper claims it's giving readers more local news it is pointing to the expansion of the community section -- powder-puff journalism -- that includes a page or two of briefs (which have indeed proven to be mostly re-written press releases) in the local section everyday. Here's what Kollin says about it in CJR:
"You wouldn't know any of this from the marketing effort, however. The newspaper is in the midst of a big advertising campaign touting "expanded coverage" of community news. Using smoke and mirrors, the marketing department is making it appear that we have more local news when we don't. If a local government pulled the same kind of stunt, we would blast them to hell. Even now."
Amen and pass the ammunition.
After the jump: The Full Text of Kollin's CJR Letter
-------------------------------------- Columbia Journalism Review
BYLINE: JOE KOLLIN. Staff writer, South Florida Sun-Sentinel Fort Lauderdale, Florida
SECTION: LETTERS; Pg. 6
LENGTH: 380 words
If you need more evidence to show that Tribune should get out of the newspaper business, as you proposed in your recent editorial, consider this.
In his January 4 e-mail designed to update Tribune employees on the status of their company, CEO Dennis FitzSimons tells us that "it is important that we continue serving our communities with outstanding journalism and operate our media businesses with a strong focus on our customers." But actions speak louder than words.
Here in the newsroom of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, a metro daily that serves southeast Florida, the company for years was willing to spend what it took to provide the "outstanding journalism" that FitzSimons seems to cherish. The focus was "serving our communities" with local news, which was considered our franchise.
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To meet our obligation (and sell papers) we covered all municipalities in our circulation area. Local news even served as the primary weapon in the war we successfully waged against The Miami Herald to the south and Palm Beach Post to the north. Investing in local news enabled the Sun-Sentinel to establish a major presence in areas it had never served before. It proved, without a doubt, that local news sells. With the competition now in the same boat as the Sun-Sentinel and nothing to goad us into "serving our communities" any more, the size of the staff has shrunk so much that we are leaving communities ignored and uncovered. Since the newspaper's Web site gets its news from the newspaper, the Web site also suffers.
You wouldn't know any of this from the marketing effort, however. The newspaper is in the midst of a big advertising campaign touting "expanded coverage" of community news. Using smoke and mirrors, the marketing department is making it appear that we have more local news when we don't. If a local government pulled the same kind of stunt, we would blast them to hell. Even now.
At a time when the industry is struggling, you'd think we would give people more reason to read a newspaper, not less. Costs are being held down obviously to please Wall Street. The paper may look more profitable, but any media company, hedge fund, or private equity group that buys it will either have to return to local news, continue losing readers, or be satisfied with the real estate. -----------------------------------------------
(Not surprisingly, many are wondering if Kollin is about to take the early buyout offered by the Sentinel).