Sunday :: Jun 8, 2008

Paid by the column inches

by Mary

Have you heard about the policy to "right-size" the Chicago Tribune and LA Times by making the ad content equal to the news? And how the "productivity" of the writers will be judged?

The recently installed COO also disclosed that Tribune officials have been examining the productivity of individual reporters at the company's newspapers, and have observed a significant discrepancy between the output of individual reporters.

In addition, he said, the productivity of the reporting staffs at Tribune's smaller dailies is much higher - in terms of sheer output - than at larger papers such as the company's big Los Angeles Times paper.

The implication of that difference in output, as measured by story production is that "We can eliminate a fair amount of people, while eliminating not much copy," he observed. Michaels didn't offer any details.

Today Krugman shows he thinks it should be easy to improve his own productivity:

Memo to management: if you decide to follow the Tribune Company and measure productivity by looking at the “column inches of news produced by each reporter“, I’m sure, quite sure indeed, that I can find a way, possibly many ways, of padding out my columns with very, very, very long sentences that may contain very, very little substantive content, but have the very, very pronounced effect of using up a lot, really a lot, I mean truly a very, very large number of highly, highly rewarded column inches (which are equal to 2.54 centimeters, I am obliged — indeed would be paid — to point out.)

In the software industry, one of the cardinal rules is more code is not necessarily better code. In fact, the more code there is for delivering the function, the more likely the code is buggier. I've seen complex buffer management schemes that use 100,000 lines of code. And I've seen the same functionality delivered in 10,000 lines of code. Guess which one works better.

It sure sounds like Sam Zell, the COO for the Tribune papers, has not the slightest clue about what makes a newspaper work.

Mary :: 10:01 AM :: Comments (5) :: Digg It!