Josh Loftin, the former Deseret News staffer who now blogs at City Weekly, has a blog post up today wondering why everyone isn’t all over the “Deseret News About To Lay Off Half Its Staff” story that he broke last week.
The blog’s tone — it feels a bit hurt, if not whiney — is that he thinks the rest of us have dropped the ball, or are being told to drop the ball — the “neutered media” crack in the headline says a lot.
I’m not the business editor at the S-E, but I know why Wasatch Rambler Inc. hasn’t been all over it: Nothing, yet, to cover.
There’s nothing yet to cover because, as I have learned from long sad experience, reporting rumors is a good way to get egg on your face. Right now, all this story is is rumors.
Josh notes his blog has been picked up by a few other blogs, and posted on some other news media briefly, but that’s it. When the sort-of-imminently predicted date of doom arrived last Friday nothing happened and the D-News management posted a brief note saying absolutely nothing, but saying it very nicely.
Is there more to the rumors?
I could start calling all the people I know at the D-News, most of whom used to work at the S-E, but I have a problem with that. To do a story, or even a column, I’d want to use names, not the “reliable source” stuff that Josh is doing. To use names, I’d have to ask my friends to risk their jobs.
I would rather not do that.
I’ve been where the D-News staffers are. The S-E has gone through two ownership changes in my time here, and during the second we really did wonder if we were going to have jobs at the end of it. We were told then, as I am sure D-News staffers are being told now, to refer all media inquiries to the management and make no statements ourselves. Penalty for violation: dismissal.
One can, I suppose, take a stand that it is the public’s right to know and as a journalist I should be willing to go public and sacrifice even my job for that sacred goal even if it is my newspaper going under or being sold. But the truth is that corporate decisions are the pervue of the corporate owners of whichever newspaper one works for.
When you hire on you make an agreement to be loyal to your company and its owners — if you have a problem with that, you are free to go elsewhere, and many at the S-E have (some to the D-News).
If you want to keep your job, you follow the company rules. It is their bat, their ball and their vacant lot. I’m an employee, not management.
I am supremely confident that the staffers at the D-News have no idea what is going to happen. All they have to deal with is internally generated rumors, which can be toxic. I’m also supremely confident they’re scared witless.
Why not protect my friends but do a story based on Josh Lofton’s sourcing and reporting?
I don’t know Josh. More important, I don’t know his sources. I don’t know his motives. I am sure his motives are wonderful and his souces are solid gold, but If I do a story, and I get sued, I have to hope that he’s right and that he’s willing to come to court and drag his sources along to save my butt.
How likely is that? No smear on Josh, but I’m going to guess “not likely.” Again no smear on Josh, but he wouldn’t be the first newspaper reporter to make stuff up, either. Not saying Josh is, just saying. Judith Miller anyone?
And who knows if his sources are telling the truth? This would not be the first time a source fed a reporter a pile of horse cookies.
And, really, is it a story worth pursuing by outsiders?
Newspaper cover news, and the fate of a major daily is news, but corporate decisions really aren’t final until they are final. Rumors are fun, but I’m willing to wait until the D-News management drops the hammer. The history of journalism in Utah is long and storied and this will be another chaper.
Having said that, the D-News does have a story in today’s paper about the formation of a “editorial advisory” board (click) which is full of things upon which to speculate, such as the line that the paper’s goal includes “Aligning our organization to honor the principles espoused by our ownership.”
That would be the principles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day saints. What does that mean?
Speculate at will, just like about all the rest.