Baquet to editors: just say no

Times editor Dean Baquet spoke to the gathered Associated Press managing editors in his hometown of New Orleans today and urged newspaper editors not to passively accept whatever cuts the corporate bean counters demand. He said when the Tribune told him what to cut a few months ago, he refused because it would have made it hard to carry out his "public service mission." From Editor & Publisher's website:

"It is the job of editors of newspapers to put up a little bit more of a fight than we have put up in the past," Baquet said in a speech before the Associated Press Managing Editors here. "Don't be shy about making the public service argument."

Just weeks after his public battle with Tribune Company over potential cutbacks, which ended with the forced resignation of former publisher Jeff Johnson and speculation that Baquet himself might be leaving, the veteran editor told editors here that they, too, must not give into demands for cutbacks.

Baquet said he had thought about resigning, but "the paper came first and I thought the best way to protect the paper was to stay." He also expected to remain as editor for several years, "hopefully 15 years, when I can retire at 65."

He explained, "This is a giant moment in the life of newspapers. We all understand the business model is changing and we have to do some cutting." But, he warned, "don't understand it to much. ... I find [editors] all too willing to buy the arguments for cuts," he stated, adding "we need to be a feistier bunch."


Baquet said his public stance against cuts drew hundreds of e-mails from around the country by supporters, something that helped him stick with the position against cutting....The editor said the most influential reactions came from his own staff, which offered e-mail support, but also requests to be involved in the paper's future. "They said they appreciated the fight, but they felt left out," Baquet revealed. "If passionate journalists have ideas, editors should harness the energy, say yes, and get out of the way."

He added that "newsrooms are angry." But he also pointed out that such threats to the industry are not new. "Every generation, a new threat comes along to newspapers," he said. "Confronted by the deep fear that the next generation will turn away from us."

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