Stop Talking About Morale
The Poynter Web site has a little note about newsroom morale on its site, FWIW. Here's an excerpt: "Newsrooms need every possible lift these days, and not just from some far-away writer at Poynter. What are YOU doing to stay motivated and motivate others in tough times?"
On the same front, morale at this publication and others in the Creative Loafing chain became a central topic in a bankruptcy hearing last week in Tampa. Our company's ownership and its chief creditor were arguing over how motivated and happy the chain's employees were.
To all of this, I say whatever. Morale is the single most overrated, manipulable, squishy, bullshit-laden benchmark in the entire public realm. It's subjective—one person can have high morale, and the next can be pissed off at the boss. It's constantly cited by the lamest employees in the organization. It's always higher, too, after the company springs for pizza and beer.
And here's the real tell-tale indicator: It's exhaustively cited by cops in their gripes against the boss. Years back, we did a piece on all the morale's-lower-than-ever stories coming out of the D.C. police department. Every year, it seemed, there was a public comment from one officer about this malaise, as the story cites, for example: "In January 2001, Sgt. G.G. Neill, head of the Fraternal Order of Police, had this to say to the Washington Post about then-Executive Assistant Chief Terrance W. Gainer, [Chief Charles] Ramsey's No. 2: 'All he did after he got here was hammer the department in the media. I don't think he gave the public a correct picture of how things are handled in the department. And that crushes morale.'"
Right here in this blog post, I am going to save all the morale-obsessed people, including the Poynter folks, a lot of work. If you're still in this industry and have a morale problem, get on a story and report and write and video the hell out of it. Finish it, and then move on to the next one. Morale problem solved.