Selling the News: Our Friends at the Daily Are in Need of Public Relations

March 2, 2016

[heide benser/corbis]
[heide benser/corbis]

In my last newsroom, working for Ohio’s largest newspaper, I didn’t have my own desk. Reporters could claim a space at one of the long, counter-like tables that served as workstations, as long as we pretended to clear out by the end of the day. Anyone stocking a pencil holder or posting a family photo could be accused of “hoteling.”

Despite a steady drubbing of layoffs, pay freezes and furloughs, space was at a premium. Our corporate owners had moved us from the paper’s roomy headquarters building to a leased office above a downtown mall. The new address was too small to hold us all, should everyone expect to be treated like they worked there.

We were given backpacks to make it easier to co-work from Starbucks or (highly recommended) our cars.

Imagine my surprise when I reported for work in a PR office, having leapt from the unfolding train wreck that is newspaper journalism after 30 rewarding years.

I was escorted to a cubicle with my name on it, one with my choice of desktop computer or Wi-Fi-enabled docking station, bookshelves and file drawers, and even a small closet in which to hang my jacket.

My pencil holder held a shiny new pair of scissors. People smiled when I posted a picture of my kids.

My new colleagues — bright, energetic and collaborative — reminded me of a news staff of, oh, three years ago. Except they had access to tools we could only dream of, such as network-quality video equipment and co-workers who knew how to use it.

It’s as if I moved from a trailer park to a gated community. After years of being told to do less with less, I was free to envision doing more with more.

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