Monday, December 19, 2005

Brain Drain Part II: HELP WANTED

With employees fleeing as fast as they can (or being thrown overboard and fed to the sharks), the Houston daily has holes to fill.

Hence, the Houston Chronicle has placed an ad with a publication put out by the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

It states:

Staff Writers, City Desk, Various Positions, Houston Chronicle. A.J. Liebling said journalists are in the business of reporting with their feet. The Houston Chronicle, one of the nation's largest newspapers, is looking for reporters who aren’t afraid to get out of the office, poke around in the world and uncover stories that make a difference in the lives of our readers. We seek energetic self-starters with a knack for generating enterprise stories and watchdog journalism — all in a city that is among the best news towns in the country. In 2005 alone, Houston was threatened by two hurricanes, was the site of one of the largest industrial explosions in U.S. history, and had a team go to the World Series. Qualifications: Applicants should have a track record of writing news for print and the Web, five years of metro daily experience and an insatiable curiosity. Spanish or Vietnamese skills are a plus. Send cover letter, resume and five clips to Veronica Flores, city editor, Houston Chronicle, 801 Texas Ave., Houston, Texas, 77002. If you are interested in asking a fellow Columbia grad questions about the Chronicle call or e-mail Dina Cappiello, the paper's environment writer at 713-362-7860 or (Updated Nov. 21)

In the interest of full disclosure, we feel compelled to warn any job applicants that the city editor listed above is on her way out, according to one of our impeccable sources. Apparently her tenure in the newsroom captain's chair has sparked a near mutiny among the rank 'n file.

Our souce says:
This woman was so bad she didn't even know the name of the mayor or county judge after she had been working here nearly a year as assistant national editor. So Cohen makes her metro editor, and she was entirely incompetent...

I don't know this lady so I can't say. She was an editorial writer for the San Antonio paper (another star in the Hearst newspaper galaxy) before coming to Houston. And she won a Knight Fellowship in 1999 when her principal areas of study were listed as "public policy leadership and Latin American literature," so she obviously has some smarts.

But an appreciation of Gabriel Garcia Marquez does not necessarily a city editor make, though it could prove useful in editing those annual Fiestas Patrias and Cinco de Mayo stories.

It could be she's more suited to being a writer of news stories or editorials. Or joining the growing Chron blog crew.

Being a city editor (she was so named in March 2004) requires a mix of skills -- people handling skills, rewrite skills, Big-Picture-Thinking skills. Plus a working knowledge of the names of the mayor, county judge and other dignitaries.

To use a sports analogy, the city editor is like the head coach of a football team. If the team won't run through a brick wall for the head coach, or at least try to, then the team won't be a "winner." Same with a city editor. He or she's gotta inspire the troops to achieve great things, even though at least half of the troops are gonna be chronic whiners with a penchant for substance abuse (a standard rule rule of thumb for newspaper journalism.)

So, if the current Chron city editor is indeed in over her head, the Chron brass is to be applauded for making a change, and there should eventually be an improvement in the product, depending on whom they hire to replace her. We wish them all well since it's the only newspaper in town.


Anonymous said...

Banjo, is your hat in the ring? I'm serious, from what I see on the "news" here, like ole Kinky says, "Why Not?"

Besides Kinky needs a major newspaper to endorse the campaign, and what better rag sheet than the Chronicle?

Rorschach said...

Given Banjo's history at that "institution" (does that mean the employees are "institutionalized"? Hmm....), I suspect his resume would be filed in the nearest outhouse between the pages of a Sears catalog.

ttyler5@hotmail said...

rorschach, outhouses?

Wow, they aren't kidding about wanting reporters who aren't afraid to get out of the office and poke around in the world!

I wonder what the exec washroom looks like?