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Duh: Older workers important to companies

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by SF_Express, Jun 19, 2011.

  1. SF_Express

    SF_Express Active Member

    Despite initial appearances, this IS a journalism story: Bank of America did a study and found that companies are now doing what they can to keep OLDER workers (institutional knowledge and all that) so that younger workers aren't left without a clue and nobody to train them. I wonder if this message will dawn on newspapers, or whether it's mostly too late (it might be).

  2. Cigar56

    Cigar56 Member

    There is no chance this will trickle down to newspapers -- unless older journalists want to return to newspapers making a third of their former salaries. The model in newspapers now is a thin layer of management at good salaries, with everybody else making peanuts.

    The problem with this story is that banking and finance are still growth industries. There is no doubt they will bounce back after the recession. Newspapers are not coming back after the recession. Thus, there isn't opportunity for growth for newspapers. At this point, ex-journalists in their 50s are best looking for other places to work than papers.
  3. SF_Express

    SF_Express Active Member

    All very good points. I wonder if at least some places, though, will see the value of that "institutional knowledge" for their readers. You're right -- probably not.
  4. sgreenwell

    sgreenwell Well-Known Member

    I've actually found the opposite problem at the few shops (three) I've been involved with fulltime - There are entrenched layers of management and reporting that make moving up impossible. Rather than cutting any of these people, the normal decisions were to cut the lowest (and usually youngest) on the totem pole, or to withhold raises, or to have furloughs.
  5. WriteThinking

    WriteThinking Well-Known Member

    If a job is not specifically for big, already-established names, I can hardly think of any newspaper or Web site that would hire anybody over the age of 35 if they have an opportunity to hire somebody under 35. Or, preferably, younger.

    Things like institutional knowledge, experience, perspective, maturity, and the idea that one can be interested in or learn new things past a certain age, etc. do not matter at all in this business.

    It's not that I think that's really true, but it is the perception, and it is the reality of recent trending. There's no denying it.
  6. SF_Express

    SF_Express Active Member

    Well, s, people complaining about dead wood not getting out of the way is a time-honored tradition, well before this economy.
  7. Versatile

    Versatile Active Member

    In my experience, the person who knows the most at a shop is the senior-most copy editor.
  8. I Should Coco

    I Should Coco Well-Known Member

    Yep. And what this economy/devolution of newspapers has done is kept some younger reporters "stuck" in jobs where, in other eras, they would have moved up.

    We have a couple reporters like that at my shop, a 20K daily. Decent -- not great -- writers, but excellent reporters in their mid to late 20s who work hard for good stories. If there were any newspapers higher up the food chain which were hiring, they could do a great job. But those opportunities aren't there.
  9. Frank_Ridgeway

    Frank_Ridgeway Well-Known Member

    Being almost 52, I would like to think that decades of experience are valuable, and I also think I can usually tell pretty quickly after picking up a paper which ones are put together by grown-ups. Unfortunately, from a business standpoint, it seems that all large papers are struggling pretty much equally regardless of whether they whacked by seniority or by inverse seniority. All that indicates to me is that newsrooms have less to do with readers' choices than we would like to admit.

    Looking at it strictly from what a professional would notice in reading a newspaper, I think it's helpful to have a large number of people who grew up in the paper's home base, no matter their age. I've been the out-of-towner, and I don't discount the value of going out and grabbing the best talent you can get, and I even think a certain amount of turnover is healthy (Exhibit A: The Miami Herald in its prime). But if you don't have a large number of people who know a place in their gut -- and are in positions to make some decisions -- you are not only going to embarrass yourselves pretty often, you are going to put out a product whose general personality is generic. On the other hand, the worst top editor I've worked lived her entire life in that city, except for going to college two counties away, and the second-worst grew up close enough in the next state that he should know better.
  10. Joe Williams

    Joe Williams Active Member

    Used to be, the attitude toward newsroom workers was, they're all paid pretty lousy, so there was no need to shed the ones who'd been around long enough to amass a few more raises.

    But things got so hairy that bosses began to sift and winnow based on the small differences in staffers' paychecks -- usually a pittance compared to what a big boss will take home in a bonus each year.

    Now they'll whack the folks making $70K so they can staff with more making $45K (when they rehire at all). That's when you lose the long-term smarts and know-how.

    This desire to pay only a young-folks' levels will catch up to newspapers big-time when those young folks ain't so young anymore. You can make it in your 20s and maybe 30s on tiny checks, but putting kids through college and saving for retirement requires grown-up pay.

    Newspapers have screwed themselves up so completely that they cannot survive if they pay staffers grown-up pay.

    But you will notice the big bosses scarfing at the public trough as aggressively as they can. While it lasts.
  11. sportsguydave

    sportsguydave Active Member

    That would require wisdom and foresight ... something the suits in our business have consistently proven they don't have.
  12. sgreenwell

    sgreenwell Well-Known Member

    I agree. Let me clarify my earlier remarks a bit though - I definitely think there is value to having experienced hands at a shop. But like anything, it needs to be a balance. Then again, I realize that with the current state of the industry, the focus is more on right-now vs. any sort of long-term planning.
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