#b#Editor’s note:#/b# While most people know the Trentonian as the flashy tabloid newspaper with the catchy headlines and page 6 girl, media analysts around the country know the paper for its new approach to news gathering and distribution. The Trentonian and its parent, the Journal Register Company, which owns 20-some daily papers as well as many weekly papers and websites, are pioneering a “digital first” approach.
The mantra is that as soon as news is gathered — from paid staffers or bloggers or readers who see something unusual and call or E-mail it in — it should be distributed to the web page and through Twitter and Facebook posts. The last stop for the news is the print edition of the paper.
In drawing on the energy of the communities it serves for the content it produces, the Journal Register is no different from the neighborhood blogs or an old fashioned arts council. But it’s one thing to contribute free labor to the arts organization, or to the neighbor trying to keep an eye on the school board. For the writer of the following article, however, it’s another matter when a for-profit corporation puts out its hand for help.
It’s said that there are 16,740 people unemployed in Trenton right now. Since my resignation from the Trentonian newspaper in May, I am now one of them.
Many citizens who do have jobs are over-worked and under-paid by companies that brag about millions of dollars in profits. The Journal Register Company, owner of the Trentonian, is one of these companies. It is a willing contributor to the unemployment rate. Over the years the Trentonian has let go a large majority of its staff. Others are gone by getting fired, or so fed up by the conditions they quit. Only a handful are left. Yes, companies are in business to make a profit, but at what cost?
There was a time the building at 600 Perry Street was filled with happy employees. Industries change. Companies need to evolve. I don’t argue that. However, when we have a company that wants to get rid of employees simply to make a higher profit, that company is an example of what is wrong with this country.
Anyone who reads the Trentonian has seen the articles about its desire for “citizen journalists” or “citizen archivists.” There is obviously work to be done. Yet this newspaper, owned by a company that bragged about making over $41 million in profit, is asking the community of almost 17,000 unemployed citizens to do the work for free. It may sound exciting to work for the local newspaper but it sounds to me like Tom Sawyer getting someone to paint his fence.
They say print is dead. It costs 50 cents to get a Trentonian on the street these days. JRC and the Trentonian have to figure in the cost of ink, printing, distribution, etc. However, if we go online to view the Trentonian’s “E-Paper,” which you have to print out yourself, it will cost you $1.
Yes, I know companies are in business to make money. But they shouldn’t be in business to bleed our pockets dry while scouting for free labor. They should not continue to contribute to the over-worked, the under-paid, and the unemployment rate just to line their own pockets.
The employees still on staff rarely, if ever, get raises. I spent almost 11 years with only one raise for $1. I was offered a position at another publication. I told my manager I was worried about my security at the Trentonian. He assured me I was safe. When he told me “Even after all the bills are paid, the Trentonian itself clears about a million dollars” I decided to work for the other publication. The Trentonian asked me to return, promising a matching rate, and I did.
The employees are the legs a company stands on yet they are dragged through the mud, then tossed in the trash. At the same time a quest for citizens who are willing to do the work for free is happily announced under the guise of getting them involved in the “digital first” revolution.
Does this also mean the end of professional journalism?
An August 14 article in the Trentonian asked for “Citizen Archivists.” The newspaper announced it has over 60 years of photos that need to be scanned into their system with descriptions added. In return, the “Citizen Archivist” gets to keep the photo. A day or so before I read this article, I was told about the removal of the publisher of the Trentonian and a member of management. The publisher’s removal was described to me as a “demotion.” The other employee was laid off. The number $41 million appeared in my mind. There is obviously work to be done. There is obviously money to pay someone to do it. Why is the Trentonian asking a community of 17,000 unemployed citizens to do the work for free?
I also want to point out to anyone who thinks that “citizen archiving” is such a great opportunity that this is where I started at the Trentonian almost 11 years ago at $9 per hour. Scanning, Photohopping, and ad design. I can also tell you that computer, scanner, and version of Photoshop 6 software program that I started on all those years ago are the same exact ones you will be working on. That’s a “Digital First” company.
I don’t want more employees to lose their jobs. I want people to get the recognition they deserve. The community should not be asked to perform the work for free.
Mark Twain would probably laugh: “Say, Tom, let me whitewash a little.”