Monday, May 5, 2008

Save The Eagle and your local newspaper

joe pisani
One of my first bosses from the days when I still thought newspaper journalism (and rock 'n' roll) could change the world "left" his job last week.

For those of us who still care about newspapers or, at least, depend on them to get the scoop on local happening, this is another sign that the end is nearing for the print era.

For my former editor, Joe Pisani, I'm hoping he recognizes that this is the sign he has long waited for from Up Above that a better, saner lifestyle awaits him elsewhere on Earth and possibly in the Hereafter.

The May 4, 2008, article and the editorial in The Advocate of Stamford about Joe's departure makes it pretty clear (between the lines) how crappy life had become there since MediaNews Group Inc. bought it and Greenwich Time a few months ago. Staff reductions through layoffs and attrition. Budget cuts. Press deadlines moved up from 2 a.m. to as early as 11 p.m. -- this is why the papers no longer feature West Coast/late-night sports scores and run government meeting news a day late now.

Joe's penultimate column, appearing on his last day on May 3, clues you into what work had become to him at the end.

The last time I talked to Joe was about a month ago. I had stopped by The Advocate office's to drop off an opinion piece I wrote for the ViewPoint page. I tried to e-mail it, but the system in the new offices MediaNews had banished the newspaper was on the fritz.

In the span of 20 minutes, Joe -- a man who goes to Mass daily, a man once who gave me a bottle of Holy Water from the shire of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and a man who sends multiple prayer cards in his Christmas cards every year -- repeatedly used a word to describe the current situation at work that I never heard him utter in the 10 years I had worked for him.

It's the word, as you fellow fans of the movie "Bull Durham" know, that is guaranteed to get the umpire to throw you out of the game.

Then, after all the many conjugations and grammatical variations of the word were exhausted, Joe asked if I needed a job because something was probably open in Greenwich.

I asked him how much longer he was going to stick it out. Joe, known affectionately to the old composing room staff and night editors as The Eagle (his photo explains it all), had worked there in some capacity for 30+ years. The last of the Eaglettes (his four daughters) was in college. And his wife, Sandy, was still putting up with him to the best of my knowledge.

Joe said he planned to fight the good fight until they kicked him out. He felt it was his mission to change his new bosses' minds and bring the papers back to what they were and could really become.

"You gotta rally the troops, man. You gotta rally them to save these papers," he said to me.

So, Joe, this one's for you:

I am printing a copy of Joe's May 3 column. I am mailing it along with a bow tie, Joe's signature neck wear, to George Irish, president of Hearst Corp. Newspapers, 959 8th Ave., New York, NY, 10019-3737
If you can't afford the tie or the postage, e-mail him copy of the column at girish@hearst.com. In the subject line, write: "FIRE NEWSMEDIA: Save The Advocate/Greenwich Time." If you can, as include any NewsMedia gripes, quality of local journalism concerns you have.
Or just call him at 212-649-2000. Leave a message. He'll get right back to you, I'm sure.

If you care about The Advocate and Greenwich Time, newspapers, local journalism or just the fact that corporate America is screwing over the little guy again (and that includes readers of The Advocate and Greenwich Time as well as the papers' staff), please join me.

9 comments:

  1. How awful to get rid of someone who truly cares about the paper and the audience.
    I wonder if they just wanted someone they could pay less. It's a shame. This city needs a good paper- it has good ones, but really, it needs great ones.
    We should combine the Advocate, the Times, and add Stamford bloggers to the opinion pages.

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  2. The day after the announcement that Bruce Hunter, Joy Haenlein and Bob Kennedy were leaving (and don't let the screen door hit you on the ass on the way out), I cancelled my subscription to the Stamford Advocate. I've never, ever, before started the day without a cup of coffee and my local paper.

    I worked for Joe and Bruce at Greenwich Time briefly in the late 80's and was amazed at how much resistance there was in the town to the idea of a real newspaper with real reporting. Joe's job was thankless, trying to run a newspaper of record in a town accustomed to boosterism, and trying to appease his corporate masters by keeping the bottom line in black ink,but he persevered and turned the newspaper into a real community service.

    I was proud of the work our small staff did back then. In the years since I left, the papers got better, more professional, I thought, until very recently.

    There was a photo of the top editors of the Advocate and Greenwich Time when the staff cuts were announced, and Joe's face said it all. Utter despair, and shock. He summed up the situation succinctly: the people who now ran the former Southern Connecticut Newspapers seemed to believe that newspapes in general were better than they needed to be.

    That was not at all the atmosphere at GT when I was there. Every morning we had a note from Joe reviewing what was good and more often, what was lacking in that day's edition. The message was, there's always room for improvement.

    How sad that that is no longer the case. At some point I can see the new owners of the Advocate and GT outsourcing the coverage of city board meetings to India.

    I hope there is a silver lining in all this for Joe, and for Bruce Hunter, and the other talented editors and writers who have been told their services are no longer required. I hope Joe gets a chance to relax a little, enjoy time with his family, and take a deep breath before he embarks on the next chapter of his life.

    Joe deserved better than this after three decades of service to our community newspapers. Shame on the Tribune company.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Oops, in my rant I stated (incorrectly) that the Tribune company should be ashamed of the way Joe and the rest of the staff have been treated; I should have said "shame on the Hearst Corporation."

    Mea culpa.

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  4. Stamford Talk - They didn't want someone cheaper; they wanted someone who would stop challenging them on every staff cut, budget reduction and every other questionable idea about "journalism" they implemented.

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  5. I don't know the issues well enough to speak to them (although that normally doesn't stop me). But dang, Kevin, you're a great writer.

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  6. Patty - I'm not sure I know who you are, but I promise to never vote you off the island. Thanks for the nice words.

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  7. Interesting post. I'm working with some newspapers right now, trying to help them figure out a way to avoid destruction at the hands of the internet.

    Any suggestions on how to make money in an environment where:

    a) classifieds (40% of revenue, generally) are moving online in droves and never coming back

    b) readers aren't subscribing to the print edition anymore, and CPM's online are 1/6 of print CPM's

    c) the American public is increasingly not interested in reading long, nuanced, thoughtful pieces.

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  8. We need to destroy the Internet, bring back small sustainable life styles, a build a Crisco-power hover cycle.

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  9. The internets ain't goin' anywhere...and most people get their news from TV anyway...newspapers are destroying themselve by cutting out what they do that no one else does, and that's cover the local happenings. You're not going to get the details of the Planning and Zoning Board on News12, or probably even on WSTC.

    ReplyDelete

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