by Kevin Allman
Welcome to The Gambit's new Web category "The Media's Lovely Corpse," where we'll have fun chronicling all the ways that print and electronic media are managing to kneecap themselves.
Today's object lesson comes courtesy of Virginia Black, assistant managing news editor of the South Bend Tribune [artists' conception above], who has struck on a way to completely alienate the paper's reporters and create more paperwork at the same time. Managers everywhere, of course, have always been able to do this, but Virginia has raised it to an art, as she is "also simplifying the record-keeping part of the productivity system; rather than managers assessing an employee on a 40-point scale every week, they will instead be checking a box on a slip of paper that indicates whether each employee met productivity goals that week."
From:[Assistant managing editor/news] Virginia Black
Sent: Thursday, January 29, 2009 11:19 AM
To: Newsroom Staff
Our old productivity system was meant purely to try to determine whether we were meeting work goals and being as productive as possible. With a smaller staff and a shift in planning, a small newsroom committee has recommended that we rework the system to still meet that goal, yet capitalize on a bigger one: communication.
If you're a copy editor, designer, photographer or editor, your productivity communication will likely not change. This is targeted foremost to all reporters, who would send a daily e-mail the last thing before they leave for the day (or at the latest, the very first thing - 8 a.m. - the next day). These e-mails would go not only to your most immediate editor but to at least five editors, including me. This daily e-mail would lay out specifically what you accomplished that day, what you need to finish or follow up on the next day, and what you plan to do that next day. We mean everything, from the most mundane county council advance to the beginning interview in the most ambitious investigation that may or may not see the light of day (or publication). It also would allow you to bring up any other communication you need to share. From there, yes, your editor will be able to tell how busy you were, but more importantly, he or she will know your accomplishments and your struggles. From that, our morning planning meetings can be even more efficient.
Here are some examples of what such notes should look like...
The following is Virginia's actual memo-example, and must be clicked to be believed...
Checked e-mail; Checked logs at Mishawaka, county and South Bend; Responded to accident at Ironwood and bypass; Called Mishawaka Detective Bureau about child neglect case (records would not provide narrative since it is under investigation by CPS); Called Mishawaka woman struck Monday by hit-and-run driver while she was getting into her car; Wrote story on woman struck by hit-and-run driver; Placed call to Trent about two rape cases that were on log (he was not in this morning); left message. Called Humane Society of St. Joseph County to see if any animals were taken out of home in Mishawaka where elderly lady was livign in filth surrounded by several full litter boxes; was told someone would be in contact. Updated productivity report; Spoke briefly with Trent about rape cases on log - appears to be teenage girl covering up for sexual escapades; Spoke with John Pavlekovich about concerns regard retirement story - presumably ironed everything out; Pow-wowed with Dave about year-end crime stories - I get homicides! -- start working on lead smelter reporting, call health dept. again, talk to lead director, no idea what I'm talking about; -- call IDEM local office, am transferred to regional office, leave message for public relations people; -- am asked to work on Goshen beating story; -- call Goshen PIO, discuss YouTube video beating; -- try to find number for YouTube mom, search phone books, internet; -- do web update; -- call Goshen schools superindendent, leave message; -- go to video bootcamp lunch; -- research YouTube beating posted by teens, leave message for national anti-Internet abuse lady; -- reach other woman affilated with anti-Internet abuse, talk to about story; -- call super Intendant again, leave second message; -- go to 2 p.m. interview with judge Scopelitis, wait forever in rotunda because he's in hearing, finally leave and reschedule; -- call back superindendant, finally reach for story; -- find address for YouTube mom; -- write YouTube video story, file story; -- give graph to john stump for lead smelter story; -- Drive out to Goshen to try and find YouTube mom, get lost, turn around, find trailer park, can't find address, finally find address, family no longer lives there, drive back. Planning to come in around 9 tomorrow.
This concludes Chapter I of "The Media's Lovely Corpse." Check in next time for future installments.