Greensboro columnist: I’m changing jobs so I can pay for my kids’ college education

Jeri Rowe, a columnist at Warren Buffett’s Greensboro News & Record, told his readers this morning that he’s leaving the paper after 25 years to become senior writer at High Point University.

He writes:

In the past, my professional suitors were always newspapers, and after investigating, visiting and hearing them out, I always said no. …

But this time, it was different. With this position, I saw a future beyond daily deadlines. But more importantly, it was a chance to earn a paycheck that would help my two children with the rising cost of college.

He says “it’s been the toughest decision I’ve made in my professional life,” and that “I’ll always have ink in my veins” [but]rowe “I have to provide for my family, and I have to provide for me.”

The paper’s reaction? Rowe (right) tells Romenesko readers: “Jeff Gauger, our editor and publisher, asked me this morning, ‘What do we have to do to keep you?’ He seemed sincere, but I didn’t want to take the conversation in that direction. I simply told them I’m not going to put him or the newspaper over a barrel. That’s not what this is about.”

We at the N&R haven’t had raises in eight years. It’s tough. My kids are getting older, cost of living is going up, and despite winning state and national writing awards, all I got is a pat on the back. This is not an indictment on the N&R. It’s more of an indictment of the newspaper culture. Even when profits were double digits, newspapers didn’t pay their people well. At least mid-sized papers that I know of. Now, with the newspapers struggling and positions going unfilled, the mantra we hear in our newsroom — or every newsroom — is we have to do “more with less.” I remember hearing that line on the fifth season of “The Wire,” it at first it ticked me off. Now, it just makes me heart-sick.

In his email, Rowe says he doesn’t believe newspapers will go away, but…

Information these days comes at us like water through a firehose, and newspapers need to think hard how to differentiate itself from so many sources of information. One way, I always thought, was through telling stories that you can’t find anywhere else. That’s what I did for years, and I believe it paid off for the newspaper. But more importantly, I believe it paid off to our readers. It gave the community a real sense of place. But when people like me, a passionate guy who loves newspapers has chased stories for 28 years leaves, that tells you something is wrong.

Finally: “In our initial discussion, I was told by a university official, ‘We realize we have to pay for talent.’ We in the news business don’t hear that.”

* Jeri Rowe: And now I leave… (