Here at the Jackson Free Press, which has been blessed to grow steadily during the economic downtown, we were saddened to watch The Clarion-Ledger's latest round of layoffs. We feel bad for the demoralized and unemployed that the Gannett Corp. coldly leaves in its wake in its effort to increase "shareholder value." We do not, however, feel sorry for a company that, like many, orchestrated its own demise by thumbing its corporate nose at the need for community building and in-depth reporting, instead choosing to sensationalize crime and bash the capital city at nearly every turn (remember the infamous "non-existent nightlife" news report?).
The Clarion-Ledger has missed so many reporting boats in the last 10 years—from its adoring endorsement of former Mayor Frank Melton to its sophomoric coverage of so-called "jackpot justice" to their reportage that former Klansman James Ford Seale was dead when he was living in a trailer next to his brother's home in Roxie.
Then there is the abysmal passive- and cliché-ridden writing that makes Mississippians look backward, and the complete lack of fact-checking. Although this paper fact-checks every story, mistakes make it into print. But we rush to correct them prominently, not just sheepishly run a follow-up story backtracking without admitting error as The Clarion-Ledger did recently after reporting that the Farish Street Entertainment District was "on the shelf."
But it's the shell of a news organization now that is the most sad—with yet another publisher lording over the layoffs. The latest publisher, Leslie Hurst, specializes in corporate speak, assuring her staff on layoff day in a peculiar fashion, according to the Gannett Blog: "I hope that after you absorb the information about the RIFs, you will re-read the strategic objectives and feel good about the direction in which we are headed." (RIFs="Reduction in Forces").
Those "strategic goals" contain some pretty obvious newspaper tasks that have been sorely missing at the Ledger for years. Like No. 5: "Execute watchdog journalism that holds government accountable. Empower and compel readers to engage in a collaborative, positive conversation to right community wrongs." This is laughable. Those folks couldn't even pull need-to-know information about Melton out of their own files before helping to foist him on our city.
As for "positive conversation," has she read the racist trash talk on her website? Her paper sends the message to the world that racists still dominate our state.
Ms. Hurst, it's going to take more than hawking 10 bullet points to rebuild public trust in your corporate brand. And if you really want to show you have "community heart," you might consider starting with your own employees. If you want to learn from us—your-competition—start here: Corporate B.S. never inspires greatness.