Saturday, November 1, 2008

A new broom in the office

Last week, my newspaper announced the appointment of a new editor - the eighth since I joined the company in 1972.

Only a few years ago, such an announcement would have left me feeling a little anxious, as a new editor almost always wants to "revamp" or "redesign" the paper and "reposition it in the market".

Sometimes, this exercise involves making one or two people redundant and revising the rosters/duties of those who remain. Then come the peremptory directives on style. Pictures must be of certain sizes, must be placed in certain positions on the page, and must have (or not have) overlines. The spelling of certain words must be "updated", and so on.

Then we go public with our "bright, rejuvenated" paper, which has "much more of the news you want to read" and "a finger that is even more firmly placed on the pulse of the community". The self-congratulatory ballyhoo is splashed all over Page 1, and may even be broadcast via local radio.

The funny thing is that, from the reader's point of view, nothing much changes. In fact, subtle tweaks in headline/caption/intro styles - issues that cause considerable angst in the editorial department - invariably pass unnoticed by the public.

Furthermore, if the general upheaval results in a demoralization of the staff and, during the ensuing weeks or months, in several resignations, the outcome may actually be a deterioration in the overall service to the community.

But eventually, of course, everything settles down again - until the editor resigns and a new, "enthusiastic" person of "vision" is appointed. Then the whole tedious process starts again.

If all this doesn't make me feel anxious any more, that's because I am now in the advertising department and am not directly affected. I can simply sit back and be a cynical spectator.


1 comment:

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