Dave Butler is right, of course. It’s time to focus on the future - not the past - at the Mercury News. In a memo to staffers yesterday, the executive editor noted a recent photo essay by designer Martin Gee that documents the empty desks and offices left behind by recent layoffs and buyouts.
“I think we have to let go of what was,” Butler wrote, “face the realities of the business as it is today, and concentrate on what can be now to best serve our readers….Somehow, we must shake loose of these constant reminders of what was and focus on what can be.”
Indeed. I have argued and will continue to argue that papers like the Merc need to completely retool themselves for the new realities of the media world, even if that means stripping the operation down to its core and rebuilding it. The threats are that big.
But you can’t deny people their hard-earned grief, especially when reminders of better times surround them at every turn. The Merc newsroom was a haunting, depressing shell of itself when I left four months ago, and frankly I’m glad that Martin decided to capture this moment in time. He is a journalist after all.
When Dean Singleton bought the Oakland Tribune back in 1992, he moved its newsroom out of its iconic downtown building to a non-descript waterfront office building. (It wasn’t a calculated move. It’s just that Singleton didn’t buy the Tribune building.) Many people howled. A link with history was broken. But I think ultimately it was easier for the reporters and editors who stayed with the Singleton Tribune to begin to let go of the Robert Maynard Tribune by leaving the old newsroom. Singleton could do the Mercury News staffers a similar favor by moving them out of the crummy old Merc offices to somewhere new and different, giving them a fresh perspective on things.
Speaking of moving on, I don’t see myself blogging about the Merc much more. I’ve said what I need to say. And it’s frankly not fair for me to toss pebbles at the windows from outside. More pertinently, my new job has me very busy. And I’ve foolishly taken on a personal side project that I’ll probably be more interested in writing about, once it’s up and running.
So we’ll leave it at that. Good luck, Merc. Cheers.
11 Apr 2008 Michael