Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Ethics Corner

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Ethics Corner

Article excerpt

THE REPLACEMENTS 'Jersey Journal' has grads learning on the fly - and on the cheap

I'm a journalism professor at the Newark campus of Rutgers University. My office is a 15-minute car ride to Journal Square, the home of The Jersey Journal in Jersey City, N. J. For 20 years, I promoted the Journal as a great place to work. I pushed my students to compete for internships at the newspaper and to try to land a job there after they graduated.

I told them the Journal had a newsroom of mentors who would mainline them into journalism and teach them about life in Hudson County -- one of the best news spots in all of America. I believed it was a great training ground for young reporters.

I was sure The Jersey Journal would remain a force forever because Steven Newhouse, the paper's fine editor in chief, would never permit his family's publishing empire to dismantle it. I had forgotten that Steve Newhouse had become more involved in other media projects and was no longer the hands-on editor he used to be.

Without him, the Journal lost its way. The news hole shrunk to 40% from 60%. Reporters were given more territory than they could cover. Editors had less time to train people. There was less to read and fewer people read it.

And the red ink flowed.

If the Journal is publishing a paper a month from now -- a definite uncertainty considering its repeated threats to close itself down -- its eggshell of an editorial staff will get even thinner. The newspaper's recent decision to force The Newspaper Guild to accept buyouts of 50% of its editorial staff has kept the Journal on the newsstands. But 11 of the 17 full-time journalists who are taking those buyouts were editors -- the kind of people my students used to rely on to understand the urban madness of Hudson County.

The old-timers still in the city room -- such as Managing Editor Margaret Schmidt and her husband, political writer (and office curmudgeon) Peter Weiss -- may be too busy to give my students the direction they used to rave about.

But now I hope that my students will rethink working at The Jersey Journal. I don't want them to be seen as youthful predators who took the jobs of journalists who might have mentored them if they hadn't been pressured to leave. Here's why.

During all the turmoil leading to the buyouts, some reporters asked Bruce Berry, the lawyer for the Journal's parent Advance Publications, how the paper expected to cover Hudson County with a Slim-Fast editorial staff. …

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