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Goodbye News-Journal

| July 24, 2016

rick de yampert newspapers news-journal

Beyond recycling. (c Rick de Yampert for FlaglerLive)

By Rick de Yampert

This morning, for the first time in 15,695 days – that’s 43 years — I awoke without a newspaper on my driveway.

I cancelled my subscription to the Daytona Beach News-Journal, a daily paper where I proudly worked for 23 years as the entertainment writer before exiting, on my own terms, in October 2015 to enter the world of freelance writing and music (I’m a professional sitar player).

During my last seven years at the News-Journal, I was both the arts and entertainment writer, after massive layoffs in 2008 landed me such extra duties as covering art exhibits, classical music and more areas that once were the purview of a full-time arts writer.

I think you see where this is going. Continued layoffs ever since have led to a steady deterioration of the “product” – a deterioration of both the quantity and quality of news reporting offered, simply because there were less bodies to cover the local news, and less editors to proofread and edit stories. And artists and an editorial cartoonist became extinct from the News-Journal many years ago. All these instances of “reduction in force,” as corporate-speak dubbed them, were of course frantic attempts to preserve the profit margin–even as many of the rank and file at the NJ were denied raises for my last seven years there.

One of the reasons I left the News-Journal was because, as the layoffs continued, more and more non-writing duties were piled on me, and I refused to compromise the quality and quantity of coverage that the local arts and entertainment scene deserves.

I’m not going to rehash the free-fall of newspapers that’s been generating news articles and analysis for more than a decade now. See Eric Alterman’s continued insightful pieces over the years, including his latest, the article “Paper Rout,” in the July 18-25 issue of The Nation.

However, I will note the obvious: Any widget-maker that seeks to preserve its profit margin by decreasing the staff that makes the widgets will run the risk of reducing its product to a turd.

rick de yampert

Rick de Yampert, post NJ. (c Rick de Yampert for FlaglerLive)

Before my NJ tour of duty, I interviewed an economics professor for an article on what he called the “just noticeable difference” syndrome. Though that’s a term used in psychology, he said it applies to any and all manufacturers of consumer products. Companies will apply JND to slyly up their profit margin–or in a desperate attempt to maintain that margin if it’s slipping. The game is played by changing to cheaper materials or reducing the size of a product, but only to a point that, in theory, is just short of the “just noticeable difference.”

This happens a lot these days at the supermarket. Your favorite candy bar goes from 6 ounces to 5.8 ounces, and we the sucker consumers don’t even notice. Or the candy maker changes to a cheaper cocoa for its chocolate. And a few years later the size of the candy bar goes from 5.8 to 5.6 ounces, and to an even cheaper cocoa. But, the eco prof said, consumers eventually do begin to notice that “Hey, this tastes like a turd! What happened?” And they stop buying the product.

And now, for me, the Daytona Beach News-Journal has gone way past the JND threshold into Turdville. The self-inflicted coup de grace happened when the paper laid off its calendar editor two weeks ago and, as I feared, the Go 386 entertainment section in this past Friday’s paper had no calendar. In all my days of reading daily newspapers–every day of my life since the 10th grade-– I’ve never encountered a paper that did not have a comprehensive listing of upcoming events in its entertainment section.

So, I’m done with the News-Journal.

This is not meant to denigrate the many former colleagues of mine who are still struggling–and struggling mightily–to produce quality journalism, and who succeed quite often in doing so despite the long odds. I will miss the stellar work of Mark Lane, Denise O’Toole Kelly, Jim Abbott, Clayton Park, Chris Bridges and so many others at the paper.

But it’s a damn shame that the NJ’s corporate overlords, and the overlords at papers across the nation, couldn’t come up with more innovative and clever solutions to alleviate their declining revenues, other than meeting those reductions in dollars with a “reduction in force.” They’ve succeeded only in reducing once-great papers into a product I no longer want to buy.

Maybe there are no solutions. As Martin Short’s Ed Grimley character would say, perhaps newspapers are “as doomed as doomed can be.” Goodbye News-Journal.

Rick de Yampert, a Palm Coast resident, is a professional musician, composer and writer. He covers arts and culture for FlaglerLive.

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25 Responses for “Goodbye News-Journal”

  1. RG says:

    Good article. I agree many big papers are going all internet subscription so profit margin rules. It’s sad to see a trade dissolve and good people displaced. The public looses a little at a time. Local news and the pulse of the local folk is Importent to report.

  2. Veteran says:

    Unfortunately all information fits in the palm of your hand in the form of a cell phone. Newspapers are on the way out. The NJ is way too left for me.

  3. New School says:

    Forgive my ignorance, but what exactly is a “newspaper”? All kidding aside, I don’t think I’ve read the News-Journal in probably 10 years. Heck even the physical Observer that shows up on my driveway barely makes it to my garage before being gracefully deposited into my recycle bin.

  4. Donald Trump's Tiny Fingers says:

    I stopped reading the news journal when they chose to fellate the hosseini family instead of engaging in objective reporting during the drama between the board of trustees and sharples at daytona state.

  5. Anonymous says:

    You’re running behind…I cancelled my subscription years ago and never regretted it. The news is biased and the current leadership that wrote a half page on how he would be fair has failed us.

  6. Katie Semore says:

    Indeed, sad commentary.

  7. Yellowstone says:

    About a week ago the NJ announced a “newer digital edition” This is, obviously, meant to direct the dwidling Reader’s attention to the new, millennial age, fast read.
    This is the trend now in publishing and has been for at least a decade.
    The NJ has used a cartoonist who is a friend I have known for years. He left a major NY paper under similar circumstances – and was not at all happy about it. He now works for a SWest newspaper and is going through another RIF. Again, not happy as he sees the lights systematically being turned off. In fact he has moved his studio to home where he can at the same time explore ‘other’ opportunities.
    He tells me the first to go are the reporters. Then staff. Advertising hangs in there – but the presses are shutting down.
    Seems the reporters can still make a living in the cottage industry – and submit articles to the paper.
    In larger industries, and I assume here as well, the CEO’s compensation is often based on the size and depth of the cut in operating expenses and higher shareholder happiness.
    Sour grapes? Well, yes. I know it does depend on what side the supply train you reside.

  8. footballen says:

    I see the same thing happening at my job.

  9. Jim Bob says:

    I agree, I must say!

  10. Tired of it says:

    The News Journal has been nothing more than a mullet wrapped for years.

  11. Geezer says:

    The News Journal was a newspaper that seemed to constrain its writers (journalists)
    and it seemed as if it (The NJ) never wanted to make waves, such as with investigative
    journalism. I did like some of the writers.

    I liked Lyda Longa. She reminded me of an old Smuckers Preserves commercial.
    “With a name like Smuckers–it has to be good.”

  12. Oldseadog says:

    I have not subscribed to that paper for years, but have seen that others also no longer subscribe when I go on my morning walk and notice the steady lack of it in driveways. The other day, I was bored in a dentists office, and picked up a copy to read————WOW! Now I see now how bad it is! I read the whole edition in about three minutes and wondered why anybody would subscribe to it at all! It is so outdated with keeping up with modern times…………..and offers so little that is in news that is prevalent on the internet or on TV. News paper journalism as done years ago, which was a joy to read, is not there.

  13. over it says:

    The man calls a spade a spade and I love that !

  14. Christine Telega says:

    I couldn’t agree more. Every time I renew my subscription, it’s after a mental fight with myself. The quality has been steadily getting worse. Articles end in the middle of a sentence, words are hyphenated in the most bizarre places, the spelling is atrocious and words are used in the wrong context, the letters to the editor seem hand picked for their stupidity, the Front Page news is all local, while the Local Section is usually just a rehash of old “news”. The Sports page is a joke and for a town that has a speedway, NASCAR news is ridiculous. It takes sometimes 3 – 4 days for the results of a race to finally make the paper. If it wasn’t such a habit to read the paper with my morning coffee, I would have discontinued long ago. It’s a shame because the News Journal used to be a good paper.

  15. Rick G says:

    This is hard to understand since every week I see more and more ads in what should be a newspaper not an adpaper.

  16. Fredrick says:

    I replaced the NJ with FlaglerLive long ago. The 100+ staff at FlaglerLive has been turning out very high quality (though much more liberal than even the NJ could ever be), local news that I enjoy reading. Luckily I have been immunized against the liberal bias so I have no fear of being sickened with the liberal drivel. All of the 30 or 40 writers for Flaglerlive churn out local news and that is what I am looking for. Even Mr. Tristan kicks out a good article once in awhile :-). His coverage of the recent local murder trial was very good and accurate. I enjoyed seeing him in the court room for the entire trial banging away at his keyboard and snapping the occasional picture.

  17. DaveT says:

    Well its better than the junk on the “TV”, of course TV news is nothing more than Orlando death and more death but Vambert is right in his article. The paper or news providing instrument of the owners of said paper need to bring back some quality.

  18. A little Common Sense please says:

    This Newspaper and many more like it will soon go by the wayside because of their paper formatting. Overhead is just to high and this is now a computerized world. It is sad to see but that is progress – I guess. The News Journal has other problems as well though. It does not report stories without bias. I stopped my subscription years ago because the news journal stopped being honest in their reports and always tried to influence public opinion to their way of thinking. If the news Journal did as a free press should, a lot of the problems in this county’s government would have been brought out in the open and dealt with long ago. The first amendment gives the press the power as watch dogs over government, but instead the modern press tries to sway public opinion and doesn’t report on the corruption as it should because they have aligned themselves with the politicians and their beliefs which are similar to their own. The press lets the government get away with murder, sometimes literally. So Sad!

  19. Denise Calderwood says:

    My husband feels the NewsJournal is an extension of the France Family Empire and another form of free handouts for them

  20. Donnie Riddle says:

    I have been in Bunnell for 47 years and have got the news journal up until March of this year. I finally had enough and I called them and told them to pull the plug! I had noticed the quality slowly going down. Flagler Live makes them look like they are running backwards! I would read news on Flagler Live three days before nj had the same story. I am not paying good money for a newspaper to use , when I am not reading it and the only use I have for it is to line drawers with !

  21. Sw says:

    Would have cxld a long time ago if it were my decision

  22. jadobi says:

    The News-Journal’s website posts the same news for days at a time, yet is last to post “breaking news.” Now if there was a VolusiaLive, that’d be great!

  23. Nancy P says:

    The only two items I’m going to miss are the Sunday funnies and the crossword!


    I was the Editor of the N-J’s Flagler paper, the News-Tribune for several years. In concert with Carl Laundrie and the Flagler bureau, we built it into an award-winning, thriving bi-weekly.

    Then they began cutting editorial space (presumably to save a few bucks on the bottom line) and it became more and more of a struggle to serve the customer as we were only able to print all the news that fit. I finally gave up and went into another field.

    This was the early 1990s, so the JNDing of the product had already begun.

  25. happeningnow says:

    Mark Lane writes from the heart, the rest of paper, sad to say, has missed the mark for news that one can question views from understanding other points of view. Much like our cable news talking heads, walk away and mumble WHAT??? If I quit paper, there goes someone ‘s means of income… It may come to that anyway. Modern tech has turned the corner on life-style for most of us.

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