OLD Media Moves

Losing institutional knowledge at Reuters

October 24, 2013

Posted by Chris Roush

Peter Szekely, the secretary-treasurer of the Newspaper Guild of New York, writes about what will happen at Reuters, where he worked for 25 years, when the news organization loses journalists due to its current buyout offer.

Szekely writes, “In 1997 – three Editorial managements ago – there was another buyout with a similarly vague and unexplained purpose targeted at anyone with at least 10 years of service. Then, as now, the most experienced journalists tended to be in the Washington bureau, where, even after 18 years with the company, I was still considered a kid. And so, when the buyout was offered, that’s where most of the takers were.

“The 10 Washington journalists – nearly one-quarter of the bureau reporting staff – who eventually left  included many of our best, some who had been with Reuters since the Watergate hearings.

“Maybe the most memorable was Mike Posner, a beloved character like you’ll never find in journalism today. Always disheveled and with a reliable ink stain on his shirt pocket, Mike knew everybody in town and had a knowledge base going back to his days as a UPI reporter during the Kennedy administration. After Reuters, Mike continued his career at the National Journal’s Congressional Daily website almost until he died two and a half years ago.

“To me, the greatest satisfaction anyone could ever have in a career, greater than any prize, is being in the most perfect working environment you can imagine – and knowing it at the time. I was lucky enough to realize what I had, but only barely before it was all gone. Everyone in the bureau was a character with a role to play. We watched each other’s back. We were really a team, like an infield that can turn a double play blindfolded.

“Near the end of the buyout’s 45-day consideration period, a few of my co-workers started coming forward. Many waited until the last day (a smart strategy if you’re considering the current buyout). The excitement grew. Everyone gathered at the National Press Club bar that Friday afternoon in May. As each new buyout taker showed up to declare ‘I’m outta here,’ there was another cheer and another round. It was a great party.

“But a commensurate hangover followed. The following Monday was probably my most depressing workday in more than 25 years at Reuters. The bureau was quiet and lifeless, a gaping hole where its soul used to be. And for me, there was another issue, something I hadn’t expected. On Friday, I was still a kid, but now, on that Monday, that was gone forever.”

Read more here.

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