Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Lead, follow or get out of the way...

"What we're saying today is that you're either part of the solution or you're part of the problem." - Eldridge Cleaver

While browsing the Herald's website today I noticed a "tease" promoting Leonard Pitts' chat with readers at 1pm.

I thought of several questions for Leonard who I admire as a writer.

I figured I'd use the opportunity to gauge the thinking of one of the Herald's "superstars" on the current state of affairs at the Herald.

Here's the question I submitted:

Q: Mr Pitts The latest Audit Bureau of Circulations report shows that The Herald lost 11.7% of its daily circ; down to just 240,233 copies daily. Sunday circulation is just as depressing; down 9.1%. Reports from other papers are bad also but the Herald seems to be leading the pack among large newspapers in circulation losses. We all know that many readers are dropping the paper in favor of getting their news on the web. But do you have an opinion as to why the Herald's circulation declines are so drastic? Also do you think the decision makers at McClatchy are moving quickly enough towards the inevitable i.e: the day when the presses stop rolling and readers get all their information from internet newspapers? Thanks for your time.

Here's how he responded:

Answered 05/07/08 13:10:23 by Leonard Pitts
A: You're asking the wrong person, Bill; you'd have to get someone with more of a head for business. I will say that really wasn't aware of The Herald "leading the pack" in circulation loss and have no idea why this would be so. And I really hope the end of newspapers is not "inevitable," though I concede things do look grim. much as I respect Leonard and his writing abilities I have to say that was a pretty lame answer.

The problem at the Herald--and a lot of other newspapers--is that many people think "it's business as usual." It's not.

Leonard may not have a "head for business" but he must have his head up his a** if he's "not aware" that the Herald's circulation is plunging.

For him to say that he "has no idea" why is stupefying.

The report last week wasn't the first report that detailed circulation losses at the Herald and other papers. These reports come out every six months. Does he bother to read about the condition of his profession? Ever?

Everybody in the newspaper industry is going to have to get on board and figure out new ways to do things if the industry is to survive; from the the mailroom to the publisher's office.

It's not enough anymore to say: "that's not my job," or "I don't have a head for business," or "I'm not aware of our circulation."

And to say you "hope the end of newspapers is not 'inevitable,' though I concede things do look grim," is fence straddling at best and denial at worst.

Advice to Leonard: Start reading those circulation reports and get involved. Or you can start memorizing where the lifeboat stations are.

I e-mailed Leonard's response to a journalist friend. She wrote back:

"As much as I like Pitts' writing, it seems like his answer is a typical, old-school newspaper-guy response. Sad."

How about it Leonard; are you part of the solution or part of the problem?.

1 comment:

  1. I don't even think Pitts lives in Miami. Last I heard, he lives up in Maryland or somewhere like that.

    And I'm sure that is the way he prefers it, as far as way from the editors as possible.

    Besides, you're asking him to give an opinion about the "decision makers at McClatchy" which he knows will be posted on the Internet.

    Any employee who wants to keep his job will most likely pass on that question.


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