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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

11 pages becomes a monster stack in news photo

ON the health care plan President Obama brings before an open joint party televised discussion this week: How is it that an 11 page proposal from President Obama is shown as an 11 inch or more stack of papers in Politico? A picture does not speak a thousand words, it lies like ten thousand.

ABC cuts news division 25%



ABC News, independently reported to the most accurage and ranked second to NBC in broadcast media ratings, announced today a restructuring and shrinking of their news division. The network, owned by Disney, is being pushed into the digital maketing age by force, through a weeding out of many of its senior employees, job freezes and early retirement buyouts.

The Canadian Press reports  "ABC News president David Westin specified no numbers, it was believed the goal for cutbacks is as high as one-quarter of the ABC News staff, which currently totals about 1,400.


"We will likely have substantially fewer people on staff at ABC News," Westin said in his memo.
He said personnel reductions would begin with voluntary buyouts to be offered employees in the days ahead. If the target number isn't reached, layoffs will likely follow.
"We anticipate that between now and the end of the year, ABC News will undergo a fundamental transformation that will ultimately affect every corner of the enterprise," Westin said.
The memo listed several provisions of the news division's restructuring plan, including an expanded use of digital journalists (who both produce and shoot their own stories), the combination of weekday and weekend operations for both "Good Morning America" and "World News," and, at the newsmagazines and other long-form programming, "a more flexible blend of staff and freelancers."

NPR reports the move is being done through slashing payroll,with deep cuts of up to 25% of ABC News Division. That's a cut of one out of every four employees. They will be closing bureaus,combining job definitions, combining show staffs, canceling programs and purchasing news and news services from third parties around the world.

Coverage of Washington DC will be pooled or dispatched primarily from New York City. Coverage of major cities within the US and around the world will be done by affiliates or by contracting to other news reporting organizations, rather than primarily be done by ABC reporters experiencing events first hand, as has been the case in the past.

The president of the division indicated ABC made choices in news organizations given the economy, technology and a look at the definition and mission of ABC as a network.

The network faces increased competition from Time Warner (CNN), Fox (Fox news) and Comcast-NBC-Universal (which is rumored to be assembling its own 24 hour news network).

There is also the decline in broadcast news significance. The Internet, cable and various new technologies are changing the way we collect, report and gather our news.

Among the changes in how news is gathered and reported are a decline in the need for large crews, for expensive specialized equipment and for large armies of trained (paid) reporters in the field. Citizen "journalism" is increasing the material, if not the quality of material available for both news organizations and the consumer. Correspondents, producers and the general public can shot edit video, and local affiliates are now to offer a higher quality of product.

Of course this does not mean that we have quality news or better reporting. The temptation of reduced staff and loss of the older, more experienced, and therefore higher paid reporters and crews, may also mean a reduction of the reliability and accuracy of the news reported. Fewer direct employees may mean a decrease in the accuracy, control and increased reliance on press releases, press spokespersons, pooled press coverage and untrained bias citizen reporters.

But in a society with a decreasing appetite for news, and many new and quicker fixes, does it really matter that the second rated television news organization, and the one independently rated as the most accurate, will be slashing its staffa] and budget at such deep levels?

Here is the full text of the ABC memo announcing the cuts (courtesy of Dale Roe and the Austin 360 Blog).


From: Westin, David Sent: Tuesday, February 23, 2010 3:40 PM To: ABCTV News ALL Cc: Sweeney, Anne Subject: ABC News Transformation
Over the past several years, we’ve seen a lot of changes — changes at ABC News and in the news industry overall. I’m proud of the way we’ve responded both to unexpected transitions in our programs and to the economic realities of our business. We’ve adapted quickly and effectively and - above all - put our audiences first. Our programs are stronger today than they were ten years ago. This is a credit first and foremost to the men and women at ABC News.
But all of us are good reporters. We can see that our entire society is in the middle of a revolution — a revolution in the ways that people get their news and information. The digital age makes our business more competitive than ever before. It also presents us with opportunities we couldn’t have imagined to gather, produce, and distribute the news. We can have great success in the new world - but only if we embrace what is new, rather than being overwhelmed by it.
The time has come to anticipate change, rather than respond to it. We have a rare opportunity to get in front of what’s coming, to ensure that ABC News has a sound journalistic and financial footing for many years to come, and to serve our audiences even better. But we must move boldly and promptly. In the past, we’ve sought out less expensive ways to replicate what we’ve always done. The time has come to re-think how we do what we are doing.
To that end, we anticipate that between now and the end of the year ABC News will undergo a fundamental transformation that will ultimately affect every corner of the enterprise. We will be guided by one central principle: In everything, we will ensure that we put our audiences first - providing them with first-rate journalism covering the things that matter the most to them in ways no one else does. And, we will do it with a business model that ensures we will be here for our audiences for many years to come.
The transformation will have six basic components:
  1. In newsgathering, we intend to dramatically expand our use of digital journalists. We have proven that this model works at various locations around the world. We believe we can take it much further;
  2. In production, we will take the example set by Nightline of editorial staff who shoot and edit their own material and follow it throughout all of our programs, while recognizing that we will continue to rely upon our ENG crews and editors for most of our work;
  3. In structure, we will combine our weekday and weekend operations for both Good Morning America and World News;
  4. In special events, we will rely upon our program staff through the day and night to cover unexpected events and marshal personnel from across the division to cover scheduled events;
  5. In newsmagazines and long-form programming, we will move to a more flexible blend of staff and freelancers so that we can respond to varying demand for hours through the year; and
  6. Overall, we will eliminate redundancies wherever possible.
An essential part of this intended transformation will be extensive training in the new technology - whether in the field or in-house. This is an extension of the digital bullpen training we’ve undertaken already, but it will be on a scale that we have not seen before. This training program and changes it will make possible in all of our operations will make ABC News the place to work in the digital age. We won’t just be preparing people for the new world; we will be living in it.
When we are finished, many job descriptions will be different, different skill sets may be required, and, yes, we will likely have substantially fewer people on staff at ABC News. To ease the transition, we are offering a voluntary separation package to all full-time, U.S.-based, non-union, non-contract employees. Information and details of the program will be sent to your home address in the next few days. The response to this voluntary program will determine the extent to which we will need to make further reductions. I encourage everyone to talk with their supervisor if they have any questions.
Any voluntary separation offers for union-represented employees will be in accordance with our obligations under the applicable labor agreement. Whatever changes we make overseas will be done in compliance with local laws and, where required, include management consultation in advance.
Throughout this process, I will keep you informed of where we are and where we are going with the transformation. Tomorrow, I will discuss this on the 9:30 call, and we will be holding meetings with various groups of staff in New York. Kate O’Brian and I will be in Washington next week to explain what we are planning in person and to take questions. Either Kate or David Reiter will be travelling to the bureaus in the coming days to do the same.
I won’t pretend that all of this will be easy. But I do truly believe that it will be good for ABC News. I believe in this institution. I believe in its mission and in its future. As always, I will need your help in making sure that we are as strong as we can be for many years to come.
Thank you.

Unemployment's impact on domestic violence

While Republicans and conservatives are attacking Senator Harry Reid's statement that unemployed men are more likely to be abusive than employed men, national domestic violence groups are defending the senator and backing their defense with statistics. The Las Vegas Sun reports on the comments that Reid made on the floor of the Senate during debate over a jobs bill.

“I met with some people, while I was home, dealing with domestic abuse,” Reid said. “It has gotten out of hand. Why? Men don't have jobs. Women don't have jobs either, but women aren’t abusive, most of the time. Men, when they're out of work, tend to become abusive. Our domestic crisis shelters in Nevada are jammed; that’s the way it is all over the country.”

Conservatives used the statement to attack the senator, with one blogger saying, "Harry's wife ought to take this as a warning come November," and a Fox News commentator saying, “It's so insane, and I don't know how much lower Harry Reid can go.”

When questioned about the statement by reporters on Tuesday, Reid defended himself and said Las Vegas’ high unemployment has led to more domestic violence.

"I’m just telling you what two people working in the field every day say," Reid said. "There’s no question that people being out of work causes more people to be involved in domestic violence."