February 26, 2003

"We Are Not Monks"

The above quote came from Orville Schell, dean of UC-Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism when I interviewed him for a story that appears in this month's issue of the American Journalism Review. He was referring to the Starbuck's-level salaries small newspapers pay to reporters and editors. "You can only abuse people so much," said Schell. "They have families, children and student loans and lives to lead. We are not monks."

The story reports on the ongoing challenge small-town editors face to fill seats in their newsrooms, and the growing reluctance of journalism-school graduates to take those jobs.

I told the story mostly through the experiences of one small Northern California newspaper, the Vacaville Reporter, whose editor, Diane Barney, struggles daily to produce quality journalism. "We have periods where we're a better newspaper and periods where we're not so good because of the learning curve that we have with the staff as it changes and fluxes," says Barney. "We can't really ever say we're there, or we've attained it, or we're done. It's not like the 'we' stays the same. The 'we' is constantly changing."

 American Journalism Review Vacancies in Vacaville -- Young journalists are increasingly reluctant to work long hours for low pay in less-than-glamorous locales. The result: high turnover and empty desks.

Posted by Tim Porter at February 26, 2003 07:09 AM