Friday, January 30, 2009

Tribune Co. continues to cut back

Posted by Craig on 1/30/2009 0 comments
It makes no sense to me. These major companies want to make more money, yet they are slashing what is vital to their product existing in the first place - personnel...and...the news! This may be a temporary fix but it's just compounding problems for down the road.

Here's what caused my latest rant on this final weekday of January.

The Los Angeles Times announced today they are laying off 300 jobs, including 70 in the newsroom, according to Bloomberg.

The explanation from corporate is that the cuts are necessary "to tackle record print advertising declines and $12.5 billion in debt."

But what really has people buzzing is the fact the Times announced today it is getting rid of its daily California Section (previously known as Metro), per LA Weekly. Content for the section will get moved to A Section, and inevitably it will be cut back.

Said Times reporter Howard Blume on the news: "I don't really know how this is going to work. The discussions have taken place well above my pay grade. There will still be a newspaper, and some of us will still be working here. And those folks will still do their darndest to put out a quality, relevant newspaper. And the rest of us will be looking for alternative employment. This is Journalism 2009."

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

College papers not immune to economic crunch

Posted by Craig on 1/28/2009 1 comments
College newspapers are being hurt by the state of the economy, according to Bryan Murley in a PBS MediaShift article published today.

Some had assumed "college newspapers would weather the storms of the changing media environment better than their peers in the wider industry," according to Murley.

I've heard this assumption in the past as part of the campus newspaper staff at St. John Fisher College and now DePaul University. The thought is that college papers are so "niche" that they are more likely to succeed, and also that the young people running these newspapers are more likely to be plugged into social networks like Facebook to help promote their work.

The problem goes back to advertising. Like other print publications, college newspapers are now suffering from "a decline in advertising revenue" per the article. Free classifieds online and businesses' reluctance to transfer their print accounts to the Web are part of the problem.

General manager of the Daily Pennsylvanian Eric Jacobs said "the drop in national advertising was like falling off a cliff." He also expects declines in local advertising in the coming months.

Murley states that college papers are cutting back costs to deal with the advertising decline. For example, the Daily Orange at Syracuse University and Daily Californian at University of California at Berkeley both dropped a publication day last fall.

It will be interesting to monitor long-term affects of the economic crunch on college newspapers and how the conditions improve as the economy recovers.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Minneapolis Star Tribune files for bankruptcy

Posted by Craig on 1/16/2009 0 comments
News of the Star Tribune's filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy broke late this evening on the ST Web site.

The article says that "Minnesota's largest newspaper will try to use bankruptcy to restructure its debt and lower its labor costs."

Most interesting was Publisher Chris Harte's statement: "'We intend to use the Chapter 11 process to make this great Twin Cities institution stronger, leaner and more efficient so that it is well positioned to benefit when economic conditions begin to improve,' Harte said in a statement."

Leaner? We all know what that means.

This comes off news that my former employer Gannett is implementing a furlough program. Nearly all of its employees will lose a week's time without pay, according to the Editor & Publisher.

What will happen next?

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Uncertainty in Seattle

Posted by Craig on 1/10/2009 0 comments
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer has served its community for 146 years, but right now the publication is on pins and needles.

Yesterday, a painful countdown began for Seattle P-I and its 170 staffers. Sixty days. Its parent company Hearst announced Friday that it is putting P-I up for sale, and if there is no buyer after 60 days, the publication will either go Web-only or it will cease to exist, according to the Associated Press.

P-I reporters Dan Richman and Andrea James wrote about the developments for the paper's Web site. They say that "[e]conomic reasons have forced the state's oldest morning newspaper into a sale," according to Steven Swartz, president of the Hearst Corp.'s newspaper division, and that the publication lost about $14 million in 2008.

Richman and James continued: "Today's dismal climate for newspapers means no buyer is likely to emerge, several sources said."

They painted a picture of the grim atmosphere: "P-I employees were silent as they listened to the announcement, which lasted about 10 minutes. Some shed tears. Others held up cell phones or voice recorders in news-conference fashion. Phones rang unanswered and the police scanner buzzed on."

The blog Newspaper Death Watch called the unfolding events the "Seattle Surprise," noting that rumors had been "floating around for months" that another paper, the Seattle Times would shut down. The Times apparently has been having its own trouble in recent years, and its future is also very uncertain.

I can't help but hope on this that somehow, someway, the Seattle situation turns out OK. While I'm well aware a buyer is unlikely to emerge, I'm a guy who loves to fight the odds until the absolute last second. Wouldn't it be great for an independent business owner to step up and save this critical piece of history in the Seattle community? If not, here's hoping P-I can at least restructure to have an on-line only product, so that it can at least survive in some form.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Some optimism for 2009

Posted by Craig on 1/06/2009 0 comments
The new year is here and John Morton provided a new way of looking at the newspaper industry now that 2008 is behind us: "It Could Be Worse."

That was the name of his article in the Dec. 2008/Jan. 2009 American Journalism Review, fresh off the press and in my mailbox when I got back to Chicago just a few hours ago.

Morton writes that the print industry's numbers for 2008 "sparkle compared with the staggering losses reported by, say, the domestic automobile companies and the airline industry."

He adds that, "the newspaper industry as a whole remains profitable" and that the average operating profit margin "is still above what is typical for most non-media businesses."

Morton concludes, "the beleaguered newspaper industry's financial health has been weakened but remains healthy by most measures. In this environment, that is an achievement."

Perhaps it's not something to celebrate, but it's a much more optimistic way of looking at the media's recent woes, headlined by the fall 2008 wave of newspaper layoffs. What better way to start 2009 than with hope that this could be the year things will turn around?

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