Saturday, March 13, 2010

Nearing yet another fork in the road

As the hopeful schmucks who still check this site for updates know, I'm not really a lapsednewsguy anymore. I am a formerly lapsednewsguy who delivers hard-hitting, take-no-prisoners journalism to the North Pole. Or something to that effect.
I started this blog a couple of years ago after what I thought was my last newspaper gig. The business sucks, to be blunt, because while the community newspapers I made my living editing are still very profitable, their distant corporate owners gut newsrooms to make the 20-plus percent margins closer to 30 percent. As a former colleague once told me, "publishers say 'local, local, local' but they only want to pay for 'wire, wire, wire.'" What he meant was AP wire stories are cheaper than local reporters.
Small town newspapering is very rewarding, because you can do justice to local news, as opposed to bigger metro newspapers that can't possibly get to all the stories that matter to their hundreds of thousands of readers. The problem comes when the aforementioned distant corporate managers hack at already too-small staffs at little papers like mine.
I decided not long after I got to the North Pole that I wouldn't do the 60-plus hour thing to compensate for this lack of corporate commitment. I haven't been afraid to settle for good enough at times. That's heresy to most journalists, but I wasn't going to work harder than my corporate masters and I wouldn't (and haven't) compel my newsroom staff (1 FT, 2 PT and one sports guy) to work off the clock as is expected at most small, 5-day a.m. papers. There's no ladder to climb anymore, so what's the point?
Despite those depressing observations, I live in a nice town and work with a great bunch of folks. We do good work (usually) and make a difference for our neighbors. That makes the effort worth it, even if we're all struggling to remaining above poverty level.
The flip side is that we all know there won't be any raises. The bills will continue to go up, but the pay won't. I'm where I'm going to be financially and professionally. I have a beautiful, yet estranged, wife and two beautiful and equally estranged kids 500 miles away. There is an opportunity 400 miles closer to home, but the same financial and professional realities exist. Being closer to the fam would be great, but it would mean less money and less discretion over how I do daily journalism.
What would you do?

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