Saturday, June 11, 2005

Staying Too Long

There's an excellent piece in the latest ESPN Magazine about Jerry Rice, the great football player and the fact that he still wants to play deep into his 40's.

It got me thinking about lots of comments on this site (and sites particular to our industries) where those in the first ten years of the career talk about dead wood and those with more time under their belt talk about the newbies as if they forgot what it was like to be 25 and confident.

TV does its part to weed out (at least in this market) older reporters. We have lots of anchors over 40, but most of the people on the street are under 35. Move on to radio, and it's not age, it's the pipes (and the pay - who wants to stay in Portland for the kind of money they pay radio reporters). At our newspapers, as usual, it's a better mix of young and not as young.

Our bosses wish that our product would gear toward the young, and that what we write, read or produce would draw a better demographic. It's hard for them to be honest about that, since most of our readership, listenership and viewership skews older - but that doesn't stop the drive to get people 25-34.

I'm drifting here. I wanted to know what you think about staying too long? I know people look at me and my experience and wonder how many years (days?) I have left. I also know it's also based on pay (replace me and save $20k).

And then there's our co-workers, who've lost their fire and their ability to perform. We know they're dragging the product down, but we like (and love) them.

Who among us can tell us (and me), the best way to tell someone, "You're done."?

Who among us have said that and gone on to something that re-kindled the fire that started with that first job?

Who among us are still in the biz and re-lit the fire themselves and are doing some of their best work now?

21 Comments:

Anonymous Bill McDonald said...

Dear PDX Media Insider,
I only ventured into the commercial media world for a short time, until I wrote a column or two questioning the Iraq War. I was told that resulted in my departure from the professional news business. Some of us stay too long very quickly. I wanted to address the part about re-kindling the fire. If you love journalism and you’re actively pursing a career in it, the real question is why does the fire go out?
I believe it’s all the filters that modern media insiders must carry around in their heads. As corporate news slides increasingly into public relations for the powers that be, the independent spirit that drives great journalism is rapidly being extinguished.
So where did I find the fire again? Where did I get a chance to reconnect with what I really think about things without losing sight of them through the endless corporate filters? Cable Access, the last great bastion of televised free speech in America, which is probably why it has gone completely unrecognized so far in your blog. Why should it be mentioned? It has no relevance at all in any insider discussion of how corporate media works for us. Excuse me, I meant “on us.”

Saturday, June 11, 2005 8:46:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congratulations on your hobby. Having a job is a little harder.

Saturday, June 11, 2005 3:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Bill McDonald said...

Dear Anonymous,
Thanks for sharing your insight. As a matter of fact I do work for a living. I write comedy for 140 radio stations and I’ve sold over 460 jokes to Jay Leno. I got into my cable access hobby out of frustrations with the mainstream media. Having a job and doing the job are two different things.

Saturday, June 11, 2005 5:17:00 PM  
Anonymous dotyoureyes said...

Bill brings up an interesting point:
If cable access is truly the last great bastion of televised free speech, why isn't anyone watching?

The answer, I suspect, is far more complicated than the flip "Americans have been conditioned by the corporate media" line we're about to hear.

My take is that Americans genuinely prefer "professional" work. In Portland, that may take the form of professional journalism on stations like KGW and KEX, the professional production qualities (with or without journalistic content) that you're more likely to see on KPTV and KXL.

If I'm wrong, and people are actually watching the last great bastion of free speech on cable access, please, someone post some numbers.

Saturday, June 11, 2005 6:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Semi-OT, but before you guys get too old, thought I might take the opportunity to provide a link to some real journalism.

Ministers were told of need for Gulf war ‘excuse’

Apparently the Brits seem to still understand that the purpose of having a "free press" as well as what it means to holding their government accountable for their actions.

Now back to your regularly scheduled thread: "How long will I be able to keep my job? Damn.. better get out there and find another runaway bride."

Saturday, June 11, 2005 7:51:00 PM  
Anonymous SickofLiberalsinOregon said...

Can we please keep the liberalism crap out of this blog? Thanks!

Saturday, June 11, 2005 9:07:00 PM  
Anonymous sickOfALamePressInOregon said...

Quick questions:

How is a reference to another piece of evidence that the US government LIED to the American people in order to go to war considered a liberal idea?

Why is coming to a media blog questioning why the media is not covering a story a liberal idea?

I don't care if you are conservative or liberal or if you believe that the ends justify the means. The fact that the Bush administration justified a war on another country based on lies should be disturbing to any citizen.

Sunday, June 12, 2005 9:15:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So true. Siezing the banner of conservatism from those of us who think it means freedom and personal responsibility, we have an administration that's lied straight into our eyes, profiteered from an illegal war, bankrupted our treasury, alienated half the country, taken away rights that should be sacred under the Constitution, turned the FBI loose on political dissidents, dictated matters of personal choice, and blackened our image around the world. That ain't conservative. It's the grinning skull of Nixon.

Sunday, June 12, 2005 3:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excuse me, but aren't you lost - the Hannity Colmes site is somewhere else.

Sunday, June 12, 2005 4:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do believe that both Hallman and Brink at the Big "O" have both won a Pulitzer after the age of 40. KATU-TV even goes out of their way to promote their experienced (older) reporters. It takes a little seasoning to become a real journalist. I think dead wood in the workplace exists at all ages and in all aspects of life, not just the media. Lets not continue to perpetuate that stereotype.

Sunday, June 12, 2005 4:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

RE: Pulitzers.

I don't believe Ben Brink has one, though he may have worked on the a project that won a prize without being named in the citation. Just a point of fact.

The O's recent winners -- Rich Read and Tom Hallman -- were both over 40 at the time they won. As were most of the people involved in the Public Service prize. As was Nigel Jaquiss.

Sunday, June 12, 2005 7:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree that media routines squelch the fire, which I think was the point of the thread earlier, before there was a sudden left-right argument. And I agree that critique of media routines, which privilege the insitutions and boosterize the status quo, is neither a left nor right purview.

It's a purview of journalists. Good journalists should be sickened by how far down the corporate road we've all come. Here I am, young-ish and only a few years into my professional career, and the fire isn't even blazing brightly anymore.

You know why? Cuz so much of what we do just doesn't matter, or does matter but is obfuscated, or is written in a way sure to ensure people don't pay attention, or is oppressively laced with the reporter's world view.

I hope something sparks up the fire of truth in me, but in the meantime, there are important products to sell, and that's what we're here for.

Sunday, June 12, 2005 10:07:00 PM  
Blogger lisaloving said...

Depressing.

Monday, June 13, 2005 7:18:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am over 50. I have a lot more in me and a burning desire to keep working. My greatest fear is that some 30 year old is going to sit me down and tell me I'm too old. There are papers in other parts of the country who do not cover certain aspects of culture becuase consultants have told them that "young people" don't pay attention to them.
Age is relative to all those of a certain age.
I'm still on fire, but I don't hold the keys to the store. Those keys, increasingly, seem to be held by those with a frame of reference of 15 minutes.

Monday, June 13, 2005 8:58:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I was producing the top-rated newscast in town, and all the former newsies would come into our basement newsroom and moan about TV news, I laughed and thought "they wish they were still in the game."

Now, after being out of the game for 10 years, I realize they were right -- you folks are well-meaning (mostly) and well-educated (some), but all you're doing is selling soap, or in Lars' case -- penis patches.

But, I do love the gossip. More, please!

Monday, June 13, 2005 10:27:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can someone please define for me the term "corporate" as it applies to media?

When I read that some media outlet, or the media in general, is too "corporate" I understand that the term is pejorative but otherwise have little idea what you're talking about. You might as well say the media is "shitty." It's about as specific a term.

So: What are the characteristics of "corporate" media and can you give us rubes out here some local examples of "corporate" media in action and how such action would be defined as "corporate?" I'm sure you can do it. Pretty sure, anyway. Obviously, I'm not the sharpest tool in the shed here, but it's been my experience that people who like to make sweeping generalities are usually the ones shortest on specifics. (That's something of a generality right there.) Anyway, would anyone care to tackle this?

And while I'm at it, I don't know how old she is (somwhere between 20 and 100, I'd guess), but Julie Sullivan at the O is one of the best, most versatile reporters I have ever read. And she has a Pulitzer, too. Anyone remember the O's Immigration series from a few years ago? A big part of that was hers.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005 12:48:00 AM  
Anonymous 2524212 said...

First, addressing how "corporate" applies to media.

Local new has always been a money-making business. One of the primary differences between now and the past is that corporations used to hide their real motives more than they do now. Today, it's okay for a corporation to publicly state that they demand a certain profit margin first and foremost... journalism quality be damned. In the "old days", that same thinking occurred... it just wasn't shared. Ratings were higher, and stations made more money off those higher ratings, so the profit margins happened more automatically. Hence the luxury of being able to focus on real journalism. Not anymore. Now we have to try much harder to make that 30-50% margin... often by making painful cuts in staff & salaries and by inventing stunts that artificially and briefly spike the ratings during sweeps. Local news isn't any more "corporate" today... its just more comfortable showing its ugly face.

Second, to address our blogger's request for examples of people in our business who still have the fire.

I think Mike Donahue at KOIN is the epitome of someone who still has the fire... but isn't allowed to let it burn. I have tremendous respect for a man who has been sh*t on repeatedly by the rotating door of KOIN management yet continues to do outstanding work in whatever roll he's assigned to endure. He makes himself more valuable to the station with each reassignment. I feel the tide may be turning back in his favor... perhaps we'll rightfully see him regularly anchoring a KOIN newscast again soon.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005 1:43:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amen...Donahue has been S**t on by various people at KOIN. That said, I think you may soon see more of him on-air. Nice man, very smart, well-regarded by viewers and co-workers.

Trust me, management realizes that he's a valuable asset...and they also recognize he's been forced to sit on the sidelines too much.

The times they are a changin'...especially at KOIN.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005 10:10:00 AM  
Blogger Musings Guy said...

here is the mentioned Jerry Rice article: http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=simmons/050609

Great story and very well written..Not sure I see the clear paralell to news however.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005 10:36:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When John Edwards stopped in Oregon City during last year's election campaign, supporters took shots at the "conservative corporate" media. When Dick Cheney visited Oregon City a short time afterwards, there were remarks about the "liberal" media.

I guess we're just damned no matter what...

Tuesday, June 14, 2005 7:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

During the Gulf War we knew we were doing a good job if at the end of the day the tally of "commie peacenik" calls and "Pentagon tools" calls were about even. And I wonder if anon 10:27 was in the same basement newsroom at the same time I wuz. I'm glad I'm gone, journalism is glad I'm gone, but I do love the gossip. :)

Monday, June 20, 2005 10:17:00 PM  

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