Thursday, September 25, 2008

Scaling the Great Wall of Newsprint

Okay, okay, I know that this entire post is completely being unfair to Kinsey Wilson, the new SVP/GM of Digital Media of NPR. But dammit, this is something I've blogged about before (or commented about it...although I can't seem to find 'em at the moment) so I'll blog about it now.

I'm getting mighty annoyed with this vast influx of non-radio journalists into the radio business. Especially public radio. Just because you're a really good print or TV journalist does not mean you're a good radio journalist. And this further annoys me because I know a helluva lot of really good radio journalists who're struggling mightily to get ahead in the world.

In fairness, I think this is true of other positions within radio, like management and whatnot.

And there's a LOT of examples of it... (name: home / former print or TV home)
  • Tom Ashbrook: WBUR / Boston Globe
  • Jon Marcus: WBUR / Boston Globe
  • Paul LaCamera: WBUR / WCVB-TV
  • Rob Bradford & Michael Felger: WEEI / Boston Herald
  • Sacha Pfeffier: WBUR / Boston Globe
  • David Boeri: WBUR / WCVB-TV
  • Wen Stephenson: WBUR / Boston Globe
  • Michael Barnicle: WTKK / Boston Globe
  • ...and now Kinsey Wilson: NPR / USA Today
Of course, I suppose I can't overlook that - in general - most of radio is crashing and burning hard, and has been for a decade. Not exactly a strong track record and quite possibly an argument for hiring "outside of the family" to bring in some fresh blood.

But I don't think that argument really flies when you're talking about public radio. In general, pubradio has done quite well over the past two decades. Admittedly, this begs the question: has part of that been due to hires from print and TV? Frankly, I have no idea. I don't think it has, but I have no evidence one way or the other really.

And admittedly, I've seen the reverse migration, too. Two good friends of mine worked with me at The Infinite Mind. One came from print (a national magazine) and went back to it...the other went to a local newspaper's web division. I don't think either of them is unhappy with the transitions. Although off the top of my head, I don't know too many high-end radio folks that have transitioned to print or TV.

On the other hand, I also want to point out that part of the reason why so many young folks aren't interested in a radio career is because the possibility for advancement is so blatantly slim. Hiring non-radio people for radio jobs certainly doesn't help that. And between print being a dying medium and TV careers being incredibly hard to break into to begin with, it's not like this radio people can realistically "work their way up" in another medium and then back into radio.

I want to point out that Wilson might well be the most qualified hire. And even if there were more qualified people, Wilson could easily end up doing the job the best. That sort of thing happens all the time.

But it's still a little disappointing that more radio people aren't getting these top jobs.

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