Daily Pilot Goes Commercial?

Yesterday, Tony Dodero, editor of the Daily Pilot, Orange County's favorite source of snapshots of Daily Pilot readers holding aloft issues of the Daily Pilot from various exotic locations, wrote a heartfelt letter to readers. Titled "Taking Notes: Changes for the Future," Dodero announced what he claimed was a "big step into the new future" of print journalism, which is struggling to preserve itself in the face of reader apathy and competition from "the Internet, bloggers, Cragislist, Google, You Tube, Facebook and who knows what will be the next big invention."

That "big step"?

From now on, starting today, the Daily Pilot will run advertisements on the front page of the paper. "It will be in the same place everyday, at the bottom of the page about six column inches wide and two inches high," Dodero wrote. "In addition, Tuesday's paper will seem a bit thinner. Instead of printing on a 50-inch wide paper, it will now be on 48 inches--a leaner product for a leaner time that will save money and paper."

Dodero also warned readers that Daily Pilot's website will also be changing--with more high-tech interactive features. And readers will be urged to contribute more to the paper--and not just more cheerful travel photos--but actual news stories and photographs for the paper's Townhall page.

One Daily Pilot staffer told the Weekly that Dodero never bothered to tell his own employees about the new changes. "We read about it in the paper along with everyone else," the staffer said. "Way to raise morale, boss. I wonder if this is how we’ll all find out when they decide to lay us off."

The staffer added that morale at the paper--as with just about every other daily paper in the country--is low these days, as is the pay, which averages around $12 to $15 bucks per hour. "Just about everyone here on staff is young and just out of college and they get a lot of work out of us for very little money," the staffer said. "They also frown on reporting overtime hours on your time sheet. The management just looks the other way if you work a 10 or 12 hour day, but they notice very quickly if you report it on your time sheet."

It's too early to tell exactly how the "big step" into front-page advertising is going to effect Daily Pilot's well-earned reputation for hard-hitting investigative journalism. Only one reader has commented on Dodero's announcement on the paper's much-vaunted, community-participation-oriented website.

"While I understand the need for change in order to keep the Daily Pilot afloat, I have a request," reader Bill Thompson wrote. "Since the news hole on the front page of the print edition is shrinking as of Tuesday, would you please devote less space elsewhere to what appear to be warmed-over business press releases and vaction photos, and give more space to actual news stories? "


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