I'm sorry to see Dean Baquet lose his job as editor of the Los Angeles Times. I take no joy in the wholesale restructuring of the newspaper business that I see unfolding before us. But it's real, it's necessary and it's driven by economic and technological change beyond our control. This is not the result of evil owners and management conspiring against the good guys, and making speeches about how editors need to stand up against an "irrational era of cost-cutting" is not helping.
We need editors to stop blaming their bosses and help figure out what successful surviving newspapers will look like in five years. They may be smaller, and certainly newsrooms will be smaller, but that doesn't mean they won't be good and possibly great, or that they won't perform their public mission. They will be different. Get over that and focus on making the best difference possible.
Jeff Jarvis wrote something recently that I think helps point the way: "If I ran a chain like Gannett or McClatchy (no thanks), I’d consolidate or outsource all kinds of editing. ... if you don’t want to go to the expense of having a business section, if it’s not core to what you do, then you can link to one. And that forces you to decide what is core. What is it that just you can do and that can’t be outsourced?"
This concept of "core" is a stumbling block. I don't know how many times I've heard someone at a meeting drone on about "our core competency." If our core competency is delivering a product or service that's obsolete, then we'd better change that competency, and damned fast before we run out of capital. So the problem is to rethink that core and identify the parts where we create unique value. Does anybody actually believe that every one of the Los Angeles Times' nearly 1,000 journalism staffers creates unique value? Trivial example: This morning latimes.com is leading with a staff-written national election roundup that could have been ripped from the wire. Outsource what you can outsource.