Dayton Daily News to stick a finger in its eyes

After years of pathetic writing, lame reporting, idiot editorializing and a butt ugly unsophisticated design, the Dayton Daily News has gone on a mad run to try to regain readership. All of a sudden, “investigative reporting” is its new thing. The “iTeam” is out to tell us all about government waste and prove that we’ve elected idiots (most of whom they endorsed).

Despite years of a community urging it to report the positive in our community, it’s still the “If it bleeds, it leads” only it’s about bleeding red ink from government coffers- after moving the police blotter back to the end of the local section.

Brilliant marketing minds came up with a two-week free subscription- try it, you’ll like it so much you’ll want it back. Only thing is what they want to sell is the dead-tree edition, as if the iPad, Kindle and computer aren’t tools of choice for those who really care about the news. Since they have a very expensive printing plant, the answer must be printing- just as if all you have is a hammer- everything looks like a nail. Cox can’t figure out that commentators are your most avid news readers- and major generators of site traffic, instead of welcoming them and building value from their content- they instead drive eyeballs to Facebook, instead of to their own site. Why they aren’t firing the digital top-dogs instead of actual content generators is proof that the Peter Principle is alive and kicking at the DDN.

The billboards, with pictures of people we don’t know, or don’t care about tell us about “customer service” and others tell us it’s the best paper yet (forgetting we haven’t had a choice since the Journal Herald shut down – and even then it was a Cox production).

Last Friday, Editor Jana Collier sent a memo to union chief Lou Grieco giving notice 60 days in advance that 4 editorial assistants and two to four photographers need to hit the bricks. Her attempt at writing in legalese is tortured, with a mish-mash of fonts showing cut and paste from the union contract (the one that hasn’t been ratified for something like 12 years) and her legal department.

Two-time Pulitzer prize-winning photo journalist, and now the Dayton Daily News photo editor, Larry C. Price, decided to resign instead of cut half of his department. In a well written letter to his staff he explains why he fell on the sword:

On Friday, I was asked by the editor in chief to devise a plan to eliminate up to four positions on the photo staff through selective layoffs based on perceived competence.

I cannot and will not do this. I do not believe the layoffs are fair to you as individuals or that they are in the best interest of the Dayton Daily News and our readers. If these cuts are enacted, it will be impossible to meet the Cox initiatives for covering breaking news, sharing content with our media partners and growing our online presence.

I deeply feel this decision by Cox and CMG Ohio management is misguided. The collective savings here are minuscule in comparison to revenue. They certainly pale in comparison with the value of what you as a team bring to the table.

Apparently no one in the Cox Media Group gets the fact that more pictures, not less are needed online to drive page views. Typically, the online iPad edition has less photos than the print edition, even though adding virtually unlimited photos to online stories without additional costs has been figured out by every other major news outlet. Photos cost to print- but, online a photo is really worth a hell of a lot more than 1000 words.

Editorial assistants are responsible for compiling going-out guides, school lunches, church notes, the filler from the press release submission system. Former editorial page editor Ellen Belcher used to have her own EA for letters, and speakups, which just shows how little that woman did at the paper other than contribute to smearing every single independent thinker in the community.

In Grieco’s email to the union he debunks Collier’s “reasoning” for the cuts:

It is because we have “too many” photo and support positions, largely because we have not had any attrition in those two categories, as we have among managers and reporters. This is, in the case of the EAs, not true. In 2008, there were nine full-time EAs. Today, there are five. Three EAs took buyouts and another became a copy editor.

There are more photographers on the list today than in 2008, but that is because the company has reclassified two people who were once considered online. We’re also told that we don’t need as many photographers as before because we’re not using photographs the same way in the paper and because there is not a need for online photo galleries because the Company cannot monetize them.

Despite being a crap paper for the last 15 years, the photojournalism displayed in the Dayton Daily has always been exceptional. Shooters like Jim Witmer, Ty Greenless, Teesha McClam and others have often prompted me to drop emails to them about their fantastic photos I’ve seen in the paper.

There are ways to win back readers, but cutting content creators (especially the uniquely local aspect of photography) is like a fine woodworker selling off his miter box and chisels.

If the Dayton Daily News merger with Ch 7 is ever going to create real synergy, it was because of the new hi-def video capabilities of the digital SLR cameras. Of course, it would also require Cox to learn that embedding Flash video in their sites excludes them from views on the Apple iOS devices. Besides Cox’s pathetic ability to be on top of search in Google (even when searching for their own photographers list that I linked to above) Cox ignores the number two site in the world, YouTube where video is HTML 5 and Apple iOS compliant.

Of course, you won’t read this story in the Dayton Daily News, either. Only on do you get the real scoop on news in Dayton. Thanks to my many DDN sources. It’s good to know that some of you like to take care of the person who gets you leads for stories without ever getting credit in your rag. Keep trying to get a contract, and put out a paper we can be proud of despite the idiots at the top. Too bad they have a million to blog on kayaking in Dayton, but can’t keep a top notch photo team on the payroll.



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