After hearing about the massive cuts to the state’s three largest newspapers, though, it’s hard to find words that I won’t end up regretting.
I thought about writing a column about how grateful I am to have this position at the Eagle. I most certainly am, but it doesn't seem appropriate to do that when 61 of the finest journalists in our area will not have a job by the fall. That is 61 out of a total newsroom staff of 102 just at the Birmingham News.
I thought about writing a column listing some of the reporters who will be laid off and providing a quick blurb about some of their best work. They certainly deserve it, but that would leave out all of the editors, copy editors and page designers who helped package and mold those stories.
I thought about writing a column balling out the executives of Advanced Publications for waxing bureaucratic about the march toward digital when they're slashing 60 percent of their content producers. But for as much as I love the journalism business, I don't know much about the business of journalism — what will make money and what won’t. For all I know those executives may pull this chaotic experiment off and the News may come back stronger.
Right now, though, it is hard to see how that is possible. There are few reporters in America who are not working extra hours, juggling multiple tasks or just doing stuff that newsmen would scoff at a decade ago. And now, with these cuts, I strain to imagine a way the paper can keep up the quality news we have come to expect.
Some people would laugh at that last statement: The Birmingham News producing quality journalism.
That’s probably why I feel so demoralized about this whole thing. That while there were protests outside the New Orleans Times-Picayune, there are some here who eagerly await the demise of the Birmingham News.
They’re the ones who say the paper is racist or that it is pandering to minorities; that it is aligned with the Democrats or a mouthpiece for Republicans.
These people, the al.commenters as they’re known, don’t much care about an investigative piece exposing a maintenance supervisor who secretly billed a school system millions for yardwork and repair jobs. They have no use for an editorial talking about the need for healthcare reform. They find an Op-Ed irrelevant when it explains that a county treats its prisoners worse now than it did nearly a century ago.
What those commenters want is to live in a world where the press is completely partisan, a world where anyone — no matter how crazed and out of touch — can find a news agency that reaffirms their own warped view.
They may just get their wish.
Daniel Gaddy is a staff reporter for the Daily Mountain Eagle and a Walker County native. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org