Dave Silverbrand: Deadline Dysfunction At Journal Junction – April 4, 2011

Monday, April 4, 2011

He’s supposed to visit my Journalism class. My guess is that Tom Abate, embattled former editor of the Northcoast Journal, won’t show.

I’ve been there — there where Tom Abate sits, a park bench between the devil and the deep-blue sea. In a shake-up that we couldn’t or shouldn’t understand, he is out as editor of the NCJ, the ink barely dry on three issues of the weekly paper.

He was a nice guy — a quixotic man with an insatiable curiosity and not so sure what to do with it. With kids we call that “the terrible twos.” In adults it can be troubling.

I teach Journalism at College of the Redwoods and work hard to put my students into the forging fires of the business. I tell them that it is volatile because it attracts volatile people. I also tell them that they need to keep their laptop charged. Anything can happen at a moment’s notice. In academia, hiring someone takes a year. In the media it can happen in seconds.

So when Tom Abate said he would be interested in using my students as interns, I was all over it. I met him on a Thursday to talk about that possibility. He took me to Ramone’s in Old Town for coffee. He asked me about my students and then as if he were the one job-seeking, sketched his “Tom-line” on a napkin.

I’ve got some smart students and I told him about them all, about the girl doing a story about East Coast-West Coast street art, another interested in local music. And I told him more about one of my students — one he had already met.

Tom wanted that student for an ASAP project.

Long story short — the story didn’t make it. Tom was terminated over that weekend. His had a troubled time at the Journal, beginning with an odd radio interview on KSLG in which he asked if its listeners were “stupid” – a rhetorical question of the worst kind.

It had been shaky ever since, Abate hyping “hybrid journalism,” a euphemism for online news, social media and what-all. I still don’t get it, but maybe I’m the hybrid dope.

I’ll miss Tom. He paid for the coffee. On the other hand, the North Coast Journal is open to more of my students’ work So, too, is the Arcata Eye. You’ll be seeing more of my students’ work here. In fact, I owe Kevin a cup of coffee. I’ll even pay for it.

Dave Silverbrand is Journalism Instructor at College of the Redwoods and General Manager at KVIQ-TV.


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