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Piece on N.Y. Times/Gerald Boyd, in New York mag

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Joe Williams, Nov 12, 2007.

  1. Joe Williams

    Joe Williams Well-Known Member

    Saw link to this article on Romenesko site:


    Here are a couple of lines that really caught my eye:

    In 2001, after outflanking Bill Keller to succeed Lelyveld, Howell Raines picked Boyd to be his managing editor . . .


    Life atop the New York Times, Howell Raines was explaining, “is a multidimensional chess game. There are alliances, but no enduring loyalties.” . . .

    Maybe all of us who piss and moan about publishers and "bean counters" not understanding the warm, fuzzy specialness of journalism should think again. When you've got top newsroom management playing office politics and ambitious career games to this degree -- as opposed to the alleged collegiality and teamwork that is supposed to be different about newpapering -- then those publications get what they deserve.

    If newspapers are around to be used for the ego and power games of those who, if they spoke to a journalism class or a town-hall meeting, would hide behind the pretense of ``keepers of a sacred trust," then why shouldn't the same newspapers be treated like ATMs by the folks who own them?

    And it's always good to know that while you're out busting your ass on tomorrow's story -- missing your kid's game, working through dinner, donating four or five unpaid-OT hours to the cause -- some jerk higher up the editorial ladder is plotting and maneuvering for his own advancement in the high-minded pursuit of "journalism." (Then he sends his kid to an Ivy League school, where that brat can dump on your kid for decades to come.)

    More convinced than ever that this industry is getting exactly what it deserves, based on these fine leaders.
  2. Frank_Ridgeway

    Frank_Ridgeway Well-Known Member

    Joe, if you're still shocked that newsrooms are rife with office politics, stay right where you are. You must be at one of the better places.

    I appreciated -- but not fully -- the places early in my career that were meritocracies. I thought it would always be that way, everywhere. That was just how newspapers were, I surmised.

    I've given this a lot of thought for a few years. I think that when the crabby old bastards started retiring in the 1980s, publishers saw it as an opportunity to hire top editors who wouldn't try to obstruct revenue over some tradition-laden sense of separation of church and state. And so they gave the jobs to those who told them what they wanted to hear and who said it in the language that made them comfortable (corporatespeak). And those editors, in turn, promoted and hired people like them. I remember an old-school managing editor in the early 1990s trying to talk me out of a job, saying the biz has changed, you wouldn't be doing any actual journalism, you'd be managing. He said it with a sense of sadness, that the job had become unfulfilling.

    I'm not saying everyone used to be happy. But I think advancement was a more transparent process. At the best paper I worked on, the managers set such a high standard of work ethic that it was clear to everyone that rank was not a matter of privilege but of obligation. These people were too busy to engage in intramural fighting, but more than that, they tended to respect each other too much to want to beat them by any other way than outperforming them. It was always competitive, it just wasn't sneaky and dishonest.
  3. Joe Williams

    Joe Williams Well-Known Member

    More disappointed than shocked, Frank. Always held out hope that what we wanted to believe was different was, in fact, different.

    If we're at the point where we either shrug and accept Howell Raines/NYT shenanigans as facts of newspaper life or risk being labeled naive, then we might as well go work somewhere we can make real money and have nights/weekends off. Otherwise, we're being played for dopes.
  4. somewriter

    somewriter Member

    Is this different than upper management in any other profession?
  5. Ben_Hecht

    Ben_Hecht Active Member

    Howell gave us Jason.

    Keller gave Paul Wolfowitz a free pass, to the distress of the nation.

    Both of these guys have some serious holes in their games.
  6. Joe Williams

    Joe Williams Well-Known Member

    Doubt it is, with possible exception of the Salvation Army.

    But that's just it -- journalism purports to be different. It banks on the worker bees thinking of the profession as different (pay paltry wages and resist giving raises in other industries and see how long the grunts stick around). Then it goes ahead and plays its crappy corporate games anyway.

    Do you have any idea what your publisher and your top editors are pulling down, and how far removed they are 90 percent of the time from the sort of long-hour, low-pay grind you're stuck with? OK, if you're a factory worker with a GED, maybe you don't have many better options. But odds are, in this business, you've got a college degree, same as the bozo above you slashing staff positions and cashing in bonus checks for shrewd cost-saving. You stick with it anyway, and then bitch for recreation.
  7. musicman

    musicman Member

    amen. to be a journalist is no more important than being a college professor. it's a title that confers an identity (if that's all and what you need), but if you want security, go out and find it on your own somehow - only then will you have freedom from the "peter principle" idiots that keep climbing the rungs of that corporate ladder. i loathe corporate america. always have, no matter the industry, because it's the only place where people with little or no talent can advance themselves and look down on others in adulthood.
  8. Frank_Ridgeway

    Frank_Ridgeway Well-Known Member

    I don't know about you, but I thought journalism was the way to avoid having to be with those people. And it was, for a while.
  9. Joe Williams

    Joe Williams Well-Known Member

    High school for (so-called) grownups.
  10. Joe Williams

    Joe Williams Well-Known Member

    You're right, Frank. Then they infiltrated our ranks, seized control and are well along in ruining what we had. (Sounds melodramatic, I'm sure, but it sure seems to be the case.)
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