Stayin’ alive

A kidney dialysis/transplant diary

To post or not to post

I’ve pondered over whether or not to write this post for a couple of months and finally decided it was an unappreciated sense of loyalty that’s kept me from so doing.  So I’m posting.

Once again I feel myself let down by an organization I’ve defended stoutly for years and from a profession I obviously hold to a much higher standard than most.

I’m speaking of The Gazette.

And of journalism.

I guess I am and always will be too idealistic about what I expect from particular newspapers in specific and journalism in general.

A few basics: I was not “educated” for a journalism career but learned my profession from on-the-job training and working first for a rabble-rousing Irish editor/publisher, John McCormally, who one Saturday morning backed one of the Hawk Eye’s  biggest advertisers out of his office while he bellowed loudlyand forcibly that no damn advertiser was going to tell him what he could and couldn’t print. The advertiser, in his reverse haste, tripped over an electrical recepticle and continued his frenetic retreat in a crab crawl across the floor with Mac looming over him and in so many words telling him to haul his sorry ass out the door.

Mac, by the way, won a Pulitzer for reporting on the Kansas murders that were the basis of Truman Capote’s “In Cold blood.” He was highly political, liked to rub elbows with nationally-known Democrats and fired his reporters to take on a challenge and to not be afraid but to take pride in wrestling with difficult issues.

He was an intense and colorful role model and it was great fun to cut my journalist’s teeth under his leadership.

I started out as a proofreader there, worked my way up to a feature reporter position and from there did practically every beat from lifestyle to political. No sports or business, though. Anyone out there remember proofreaders?

I eventually became City Editor.

The second editor/publisher I worked for at The Hawk Eye  was Stuart Awbrey, winner of the prestigious E.B. White award and a champion of local journalism. He was wont to tell his reporters that covering the big stories was fine and wanted but to never forget the local stories ( garbage pickup will be delayed two days this week) were  just as important and maybe more so to readers than revealing the identity of “Deep Throat.”  He was right.

Stu once told me he believed my ethics were actually too high because I refused free membership and the food needed for a weight-loss program because I said the only way I would write the stories about my weight loss would be after I’d successfully maintained the loss for three years. They decided that would be too long to wait for the hype they were after.

Loyalty was important at that newspaper and it was pretty much a two-way street. I did eventually burn out from the long, long hours and the daily deadline stress.

I also had become disillusioned with what seemed to be a wide gap between what newspapers espoused to believe – workers’ rights and fair pay for work done, for example – and the reality reporters and editors lived under.

Took me five or six years before I could actually contemplate working in a newsroom again and when I signed on with The Gazette’s online efforts, we weren’t supposed to be in the newsroom.

So why am I disappointed by The Gazette?

It comes down to this: I began this blog on Gazette Online. I’ve written it for several years now at no cost to The Gazette and had a slowly building audience with views to the blog usually totaling 200+ a week, no wildly successful national blog but respectable, I think, for a very narrow-scoped blog.

And now that I no longer work for The Gazette – their decision not mine – I felt my blog helped represent a voice from the community and presented decent copy at no cost to their budget.

When Gazette Online was redesigned recently, Stayin’  Alive was cut from the blog list with no warning, with no “thanks we appreciated your content contribution but we’re limiting the blogs on the site.” No nothing.

Someone asked me just today if I was going to do more writing for The Gazette because he missed my reviews etc. I told him I didn’t think so. The Gazette told me at the time – about now – last year that they wanted me to provide some content for them and that they’d be contacting me. No contact followed.

Though I realize the whole industry is in flux – or maybe that should be in toilet flush – the callousness and discourtesy shown me, a former colleague, has soured me on The Gazette.

They’ll get no “community content” from me.

October 2, 2009 - Posted by | kidney

7 Comments »

  1. Kathy,

    I’m sorry to hear you’ve soured on the Gazette. I’ve lived in Cedar Rapids for over 24 years and have read the Gazette every day for all of that time. Let’s see … that’s
    24×365=8760+ issues.

    Our newspaper, like lots of local and even national ones, is looking for innovative ways to survive in these times. I’d encourage you to call the editor or director of online content and express your displeasure. You may find that you get a fair hearing or at least an explanation. All the best to you.

    John

    Comment by John | October 3, 2009 | Reply

  2. John,

    I appreciate your comment and I may do that at some time. I’ve been known to mellow on things like this before. :) Please keep reading the blog. I promise I won’t keep beating a dead horse on this.

    Comment by iowakitkat | October 3, 2009 | Reply

  3. Kathy,

    I will keep reading your blog. I have it in my news reader on Google. I’m always glad to see a new post and worry when you haven’t written anything for a while. So … keep writing. I’ll keep reading,

    John

    Comment by John | October 3, 2009 | Reply

  4. tim forwarded via my son John barry, now working at Iowa Attorney General’s Office. Condolences on that whole diabetes/kidneyfailure/loss of leg thing. I believe that qualifies as a really bad year, not even including the Cedar Rapids Gazette. One of my friends was recently in CR to look at the Family Practice Residency–another victim of the flood. I’ve got to believe there still is a role for journalists in the world. How else would we know about this stuff.

    Comment by Terence | October 11, 2009 | Reply

    • Terence,

      Great to hear from you and hope the whole fam damnily is doing well. You’d think haggard old journalists would write old friends more often but it doesn’t seem so.
      I hope there is still room for journalists covering more than celebrity schlock, though I still love the theater and all that other artsy fartsy stuff. And I really do think journalists at least were among the more idealistic crusaders (though of course one has to maintain objectivity at all times).
      I’m sure there’s some agism going on, too. Like no one my age can really get the internet. Hockey puck. I’ve been talking and trying to implement online change for the 10+ years I worked there but like so many projects, they tell you they want you to be cutting edge and then proudly hand you a butter knife to accomplish it.

      Say a fond hello to all your kith and kin.

      Kathy

      Comment by iowakitkat | October 11, 2009 | Reply

  5. Hi Kathy.
    I’m still reading your blog – on gazetteonline or not … To H-E-double-toothpicks with them I say! Side note: I think the “new” gazetteonline is yuck yuck yuck!!! Anyway, am happy when I see you posting. Hang in there and keep finding the humor!
    All the best,
    Kristin Ertzinger (former Gazette colleague)

    Comment by kristin | October 20, 2009 | Reply

  6. Good luck, Kathy. I’m still at The Gazette & will bring this to the attention of the online editor and the community engagement guy. (Also, I believe Mac & the Hutchinson News won the Pulitzer for its fight for one-man-one vote redistricting in Kansas… Harris & the News sued, took it to Supreme COurt & won & set a new national standard against gerrymandering of legislative districts. Mac was the main editor of that fight. I, too, remember a fight he had w/ advertisers, this time car dealers who were offended by an editorial cartoon. (It was pretty nasty.) They left the paper but came back because, before the Internet, the paper really was the only way to reach the majority of readers. ‘Course, that’s not the case anymore, tho Gazette/GazetteOnline still reach millions. End of ad. :-)

    Comment by maryiowa | October 22, 2009 | Reply


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