Those of you who know me are familiar with my tendency to become irritated or even outraged over injustices. When something bothers me, I am inclined to obsess about it or reference it repeatedly to draw attention to it.
We’re at a moment in time when there are an overwhelming number of things occurring in our world which I find outrageous or offensive or heartbreaking. African girls being abducted, children dying in the sands of the Middle East, unarmed Black men being killed by the authorities in the Midwest, a beloved actor not able to love himself…these are some dark times.
Who do you look to for information about events like these? For me, Twitter has become the spot to which I go first. Within minutes I can get perspectives from dozens of sources, some of whom are affiliated with or representing print publications. I don’t necessarily have to subscribe to a newspaper because I can follow a writer. Things have changed.
In the past couple of years, I’ve done some work for the Albany Times Union. I shoot photos for some of their Seen galleries and had a writing gig that actually came with compensation. I ended my relationship with Moms at Work following many months of being expected to do the work of two “Moms” but being paid for only one. No, thank you. Because this was an income that was supplementary, I was in a position to simply walk away. But what if that wasn’t my situation?
Each time I am subjected to evidence of the Hearst family’s generosity, their noblesse oblige, I feel a piece of my heart harden. What ever happened to “charity” starting at home? If one considers how much the price of daily essentials, things like gas, groceries, health insurance premiums, have risen in recent years, how can any employee of the Times Union sincerely celebrate the public unveiling of a new hospital wing or the purchase of a cutting edge printing press when they haven’t received a raise in 7 years?
When I browse my Twitter feed I see a lot of activity from the Schenectady Gazette – photos, articles and breaking news. Their online presence, despite a paywall, is pretty remarkable and I find myself clicking through and reading some of their stuff even though it isn’t necessarily providing coverage of my neighborhood. Some of the people I follow, for instance Mark McGuire, Jimmy Veilkind and Michael Janairo, once were TU newsroom employees. They, along with other writers, photographers and advertising salespeople have left the Times Union for new opportunities and, I imagine, the hopes of being better compensated for their talents and efforts. I’m certain they are missed.
Those who remain at the Times Union, including Paul Grondahl who I consider to be the best newspaper writer in our region, continue to produce excellent copy, despite their lack of monetary appreciation. They are professionals and as such, they continue to do their jobs writing, Tweeting and blogging, but it must be difficult to remain positive and committed to an organization which fails to reward their talents with more than lip service.
When I casually, and completely unscientifically, compare the online activity (specifically Twitter) of the TU and the Gazette I sense a difference in the level of eagerness present. The employees of the Gazette seem to produce material which they know will be acknowledged and appreciated – both by the public and the corporation for which they work. The Times Union folks seem to be driven to write because that is who they are – journalists, but there is also an underlying absence of enthusiasm. It must be hard to continue to produce, to in fact expand production to new forms of journalistic media, when one hasn’t had the benefit of a raise in 7 years.
Maybe Hearst can use that fancy press to print his employees some money – or at the least a new contract. Shameful.