David Hunke, president and publisher of USA Today, was the keynote speaker at AAJA’s gala Saturday night.
Hunke gave an impassioned speech about journalism’s core principles: justice, integrity, dignity, truth. He shared a story from his youth, when a young girl decided to “draw the line in the sand” against bullies. It seemed to resonate with all the attendees, who gave him a standing ovation at the end.
But during the speech, I thought about tweeting, “Wonder where Gannett drew the line in the last round of layoffs?”
But I decided it was unfair and snarky, especially without context.
But with a little more room in a blog post, I think it’s a valid question to ask: how will journalism be “all right” — Hunke’s words — if corporations and their executives and boards don’t draw the lines themselves?
— Just this past June Gannett laid off 700 people, many of them journalists at its community newspapers.
— Gannett has cut 20,000 jobs since Craig Dubow became its CEO in 2005
— Yet, Gannett executives were granted millions in bonuses earlier this year.
Yes, this issue is more complex than what one blog post can address. Yes, public, for-profit companies must answer to stockholders and Wall Street. Yes, journalism isn’t the only industry affected by the down economy.
But let’s not sit in a ballroom and listen to a feel-good speech and not acknowledge that Gannett has angered and alienated many journalists. It has also ended many journalism careers.
Journalism will always be “all right” because there are so many passionate journalists who value information, accountability and the truth. They’re just doing it in different ways — as non-profits, startups, bloggers, entrepreneurs.
They are drawing the line in the sand every day.
What about Gannett? If they did, that would be worth a real standing ovation.
- Sunny Wu @skdub | @sportsandfood