The staff at Le Monde went on strike rather than accept cutbacks of more than 25%; the paper didn’t come out today, which says to me that these folks were serious. Now, I know that workers in France are accustomed to much greater levels of job security than workers here in the U.S., which may be responsible for the outraged reaction. Even so, something in me appreciates that the journalists there are at least motivated enough to make the effort to protest the cuts.
Here’s a snip from Reuters:
Le Monde’s losses reached 20m euros ($31.64m) in 2007 after a loss of
14.3m euros in 2006. It has accumulated 150m euros in debt and chief
executive Eric Fottorino says drastic restructuring is needed.
The paper’s journalists, considered among the aristocracy of the French
daily press, say they do not dispute the need to take measures to
respond to the problems confronting newspapers everywhere but they say
the drastic cuts threaten the paper.
They say management has failed to address chronic problems such as the
newspaper’s archaic distribution system, which can leave readers
outside Paris struggling to find the daily many hours after it has
appeared in Paris. Le Monde’s main rivals, the conservative Le Figaro
and the leftwing Liberation have both struggled with similar problems
and Liberation went through a brutal restructuring of its own last year.
So many papers in the U.S. have already gone through these kinds of devastating staff cutbacks; the conventional wisdom these days in the shellshocked newsrooms is that every newspaper reporter and editor now sucking oxygen is nothing more than a dead man walking. Friends still working (albeit part-time) in newsrooms talk about seeing the "thousand-yard stare" in their colleagues’ eyes; that people are doing there jobs and struggling through the days more out of a sense of duty than of hope. That resignation has set in, and many journalists are just going through the motions, really.
Meanwhile, today the effects of the internet were also felt right here in L.A. – New Line Cinema, which only a few years ago was riding high on the mountains of cash being brought in by the Lord of the Rings franchise, has had 450 jobs cut. The mini-major studio hit a losing skid after the LOTR franchise, and its efforts to jump-start a new cash cow failed dramatically, as The Golden Compass tanked. BTW – that may have been my least-favorite movie of the last year – it felt so freaking awful, that I was enraged when leaving the Arclight. Out of fear & greed, the New Line dingbats had removed everything that made the stories interesting or compelling and released a christawful pseudo-spectacular that had lots of big sweeping shots of CGI creatures running across dramatic landscapes, but no real story that made people care about what was flickering on the screen.
There’s a lesson to be learned here. The crisis hitting newspapers and the crisis hitting the movies is the same one. The roots lie deep in Corporate America’s takeover of the media in the last 30 years, and the way that focus groups, test marketing and escalating budgets have combined to take all the life, all the humanity out of most of the media.
Has nobody there read the Cluetrain Manifesto? Fewer and fewer of us will stand to be treated like thin-sliced demographic profiles; Corporate insistence on clinging to their charts, graphs, spreadsheets and analyses are at the heart of why people keep turning off, in search of authenticity…