Department of Reader Response

During the short time I’ve been doing this website, I’ve had a few comments from people, mostly good, some not so much.  Normally, if I feel they call for a reply, I just keep the thread going under whatever post they were commenting on.  Earlier today, I received a comment that calls for a little more thorough response, however.

It’s from Art Golden.  For those of you who don’t know, Art is the General Manager for Nor’easter Magazine, a place I helped found and used to work for.  Apparently, Art took a little umbrage at my recent criticism of Nor’easter’s cost-cutting moves. Here’s what he had to say, as it appeared in all it’s unedited glory:

“Dan…you’re right, anyone with a computer, too much free time, and “half a brain,” can set up a website and ramble on about any old thing that crosses their mind…and even make falsh claims. You really should do some fact checking before making alligations or you’re the one that will come out smelling like a skink. As far as layoffs are concerne, your right, they stink. But like it our not, they are a part of what businesses must do save their franchise. Remember, its business, not personnal!”

Oh, where to begin?  First, Art, if you’ve read any of my stuff, you’d know that my criticisms are leveled at the publication and corporate level of the industry, not the individual managers of the publications.  I do this because I know that the local on-site managers aren’t the ones making these decisions, they’re generally institutional calls from the central corporate office that virtually no amount of discussion from the people who produce the paper themselves can mitigate.  Especially bottom-line decisions like cost cutting maneuvers.  Nothing “personnal”, as you put it.

I’m a little confused with your claims of “falsh alligations”.  By the way, you obviously attended the Sean Connery School of Elocution.  Everyone reading this, said it out loud with me, “falsh.”  Now just try and tell me you don’t sound like the famous Scottish actor.  I went back and re-read my piece just to see if you had a point.  I do have a tendency toward hyperbole on occasion, so maybe there was something I missed or didn’t intend.  Nope.

I made three basic comments about Nor’easter, and I’ll address all three.  One, you laid off your in-house production staff in favor of out-sourcing to a sister publication in Essex, CT.  Didn’t you?  Otherwise, it seems pretty odd that the production people formerly listed in your masthead are no longer there and the names that do also appear in the masthead of also-Dominion-owned Soundings based in, ta-da, Essex, CT.  But maybe I’m just confused.

Two, you cut down the size of the publication by nearly half.  I broke out my tape measure for this one.  The previous size was 10.5 x 14 inches.  The new size is 7.5 x 10.5.  When extrapolated to square inches, that means you cut precisely 46.6% of the previous page area.  I think that qualifies as nearly half.  And being that I’ve had dealings with about a dozen different printing plants during my working life, I’m reasonably sure 46% less paper means a smaller bill.

Three, I criticized the use of PDF digital editions, and suggested that it may be part of an effort to cut back on print circulation.  What I didn’t say was that you actually had cut back on circulation.  In fact, my exact words were, “I’m not saying any of these publications have taken those steps, I don’t know,  just that it is an actual selling point by the companies who produce these digital editions for magazines.”

And just so you’re aware, I did confirm the layoffs and outsourcing with no fewer than six different sources before I wrote it.  Now, to be completely fair, I did think you did a nice job presenting these obvious cost-cutting moves as difficult but positive progress in your opening letter both in the last full-size edition and the debut shrunken version.  As I’ve learned the hard way, it’s pretty tough to make lemonade from rotten lemons.  And I do agree with you that layoffs stink and they are a part of the business, especially now.  My problem is that the industry is laying off the wrong people.  Cutting skilled content people instead of overpaid paper-pushers in management may seem like a good idea, but it is a recipe for future disaster.

So I’m left with the thought that maybe you don’t actually believe these are cost-cutting moves, and that’s your concern with my post.  Well, if you can explain to me how out-sourcing your entire production department and drastically shrinking your publication aren’t cost-savings moves, you have an open forum here.  Please.  I’d really like to know.

Anyway, thanks for playing.  Feel free to write back any time.  And here’s a little tip.  There’s this new invention going around called spellcheck.  Look into it.  Otherwise, your most eloquently composed comments may make you “come out smelling like a skink.”  Hey, wasn’t a skink one of those things the Who’s down in Whoville were afraid would steal their roast beast?

Published in: on November 11, 2009 at 8:36 pm  Comments (5)  
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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. The “Sean Connery School of Elocution”– Too Funny! I found myself saying it aloud as you suggested! Good piece.

    • Thank you. I’ve been walking around saying it all night ever since I first read it yesterday. I always wanted to imitate Sean Connery but couldn’t quite get it right. Now I know how.

  2. Thanks for the insightful and hilarious reporting Dan. To be fair, I guess I should give credit where credit is due in this case. Mr. Golden couldn’t have handed you any better material to work with. Perhaps Mr. Golden should have made use of Mr. Black’s “old-school copy-editing” before he replied to your thread.

    I share your enthusiasm towards a healthy force of local competition coming to the front lines. Personally, (or personnally as Mr. Golden would say) I would be navigating the corporate seas with caution. It’s never a good idea to sell your soul to the devil – especially a devil with billions of dollars and NO ties to an insignificant satellite office in North East, Maryland staffed with an illiterate GM/Publisher.

  3. I agree Amy, he truly couldn’t have handed him better material to work with and the typos on their own are hilarious. Someone of that statue not spell checking when they’re posting on a public website knowing what they write falls not only on Nor’easter Magazine but Dominion Enterprises. I used to love reading the Nor’easter Magazine but in the past 3-4 years it really has become more advertising then articles and the articles aren’t even that great. I also have a heck of a time finding it anywhere.

    • Hi Melissa,

      Thanks for writing. I agree with you about Nor’easter. I left a couple years ago because I, too, felt we had become too ad heavy, and I wasn’t happy with some of the decisions to cut back on content. But they own the publication, so it’s their right to do whatever they want with it. It’s also my right not to be involved. As for the comment and the typos, I can’t disagree. We make our livings out here in publishing and the written word, and as such, we need to respect it. Not only was the comment filled with typos and grammatical errors, it was essentially a straight insult directed at me. I think that’s why I went so hard after the typos. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am argumentative to a fault. There’s nothing I like more than a good, passionate exchange of ideas, but only in a reasoned sense.

      A while back, I made some criticisms of Mark Cuban, the internet billionaire who owns the Dallas Mavericks among other things, about a blog post he’d made recommending newspapers cut out aggregators. Much to my surprise, Cuban actually wrote a reply, and it wasn’t simply an insult, it was a well-reasoned defense of his position and an answer to my criticisms. I was blown away that someone like him took the time to respond intelligently to my ramblings, and I have nothing but respect for that. For writers to just lob insults at someone you disagree with, however, strikes me as intellectually lazy. And taken with the typos, you’re right, it does reflect poorly not only on the writers but the organizations they represent.

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