Thursday, March 4, 2010

Broadcast journalists aren't escaping media 'transformation'

The press for more than a year has trumpeted the lousy news of big-city daily newspapers' financial woes -- brought on more by ridiculous business decisions and outrirght goofy assumptions than by Internet competition. But even as small dailies and weeklies survive and even prosper, other media sectors are suffering, too.

ABC News will cut between 20% and 25% of its news-division employees -- some 300 jobs -- on the heels of CBS News' recent layoffs of about 100 employees.

ABC News president David Westin (above) in a memo inexplicably wrote about the potential of growth even as in the same breath -- or, paper -- he announced the cuts.

"The digital age makes our business more competitive than ever before," he writes. "It also presents us with opportunities we couldn't have imagined to gather, produce, and distribute the news."

He lays out his plan for the network'a news operation's transformation by promising to "dramatically expand our use of digital journalists" and "move to a more flexible blend of staff and freelancers," which sounds like the short-sighted management axioms "Do more with less" or "Use cheap help."

Westin buries the lede, too, finally mentioning, "When we are finished, we will likely have substantially fewer people on staff at ABC News. To ease the transition, we are offering a voluntary separation package to all full-time, U.S.-based, non-union, non-contract employees."

Unionized journalists and other workers will have separate "voluntary separation offers," he adds.

Like the Tribune's Sam Zell or other media moguls, he doesn't address how such a gutted endeavor will be expected to do more work.