Tuesday, March 10, 2009

KC Star to lay off 150 employees

The economic tsunami has hit the newspaper industry hard. The Rocky Mountain News just went under. Other papers are reaching for life vests. Now we hear McClatchy is to lay off 150 KC Star employees.

The Star's survivors who make more than $100K will receive 10% pay cut. Those who make less will find their paychecks cut by only 5%. When you have a mortgage to pay, that 5% can be critical. Still, a reduced paycheck is better than an unemployment check.

When paper news dies, will news be delivered only by Internet and TV? Will AP and other news organizations lose control, and therefore, control of ethics, accuracy and content?

And fer heaven's sake, what will we use to line our birdcages? My parakeet, Buster, is concerned.

Okay, I'm being rather harsh. But now that we pay more for the KC Star, we get less. The average daily Star is as thin as a comic book. And it's not only that the Star has fewer pages. It's also that local investigative reporting will undoubtedly disappear completely. There may eventually be one central "news" office that issues articles to news organizations throughout the country. Maybe there will be one local reporter dashing from city council meeting to Mayor's office to Topeka and Jefferson City 24/7.

So where do fired reporters, opinion writers, columnists, editors and fact-checkers go? Do they become embittered sackers at your grocery store? Do they pace the city sidewalks wearing sandwich boards for Pizza Hut or Statue of Liberty outfits for a tax prep company? Good grief, they have bills to pay, somehow. What fitting jobs are available to these journalistic professionals in this economy? This whole megillah is a pity and a shame.

The good news is that with printed newspapers gone, demagogues like Rupert Murdoch can't slant the news in an ultraconservative direction. The bad news is that readers (those with Internet access, please note) are set adrift in a sea of unsorted, unvetted "news" that includes slanted blogs and websites with zero requirements for accuracy and community spirit.

It's every man and woman for him/herself in the news whirlpool, once respected daily papers sink below the waves. Tread water, baby. Tread water.

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