Thursday, July 23, 2015

30 Days of Night in Charleston: two "The Grocery List"

Journalists hate math.

Most of us, if we were any good at numbers and figures would have gone into some other field. There's never been real money in newspapers --unless you were an owner.

Money at both papers had been stretched thin for as long as I've been there. The computer I use is pretty much the same one I've had since the I logged in the first time almost nine years ago. Only the monitor is different.

Christmas bonuses stopped before I arrived. Across the board raises ended not long after I arrived, but, for the most part, I've always looked at what was happening at the newspaper as part of the overall economy of the state. The housing bubble collapsed. The financial industry all but disintegrated. Oil went up then came back down. Natural gas wiped out coal. The whole country was in a deep recession, and West Virginia was getting her ass kicked.

The only people who seemed to be making any real money were the meth labs and the state kept trying to shut them down.

I heard a lot of blame pushed onto the owners --bad choices, bad investments. I have no idea and I know very little about the people who run the company now.

My experiences with them have been select, but memorable for me.

During my first year at the paper, the owner threw a Christmas party at her house --a horribly awkward affair. It was a muddy December. I wore boots and she had cream colored carpeting. The contents of her first floor were worth more than the purchase price of my Dodge Neon.

I remember standing awkwardly over a table, drinking Maker's Mark bourbon and struggling to make small talk with the owner's son-in-law. I just couldn't do it. I had no idea what to say. Neither did he. We just stood there, finished our drinks and then I ambled off to review a show at the Clay Center.

The owner's daughter, the current publisher, I mistook for a secretary once.

I don't know if they're any good at math either. What I do know is that we have 45 former Gazette employees and 35 former Daily Mail employees and they really only want about 65 Gazette-Mail employees.

Fifteen people have to go --ballpark.

Redundancies make up the bulk of the losses. Most of those will come from the copy desk, photography, sports and a maybe editorial staff --maybe.

At a rough guess, that's about 10 people.

The rest comes from general reporters, beat reporters, feature writers, wherever.

The company has a list of needs, of course. They need reporters covering the statehouse, city hall, education, health, business and crime. They need people who can do a little bit of everything. They need photographers and people who can lay out the pages.

Some people on staff now are probably protected. I have a hard time imagining the paper without about ten specific staff members. I figure they're safe. I also think people with unique positions, like the editor of the teen section, have little to worry about.

So, how do I fit in?

I don't know. I really don't.

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