Continuing fallout from McClatchy’s 1,400-person layoff last week: PaidContent.org’s Joseph Weisenthal remarks on all the attention to CEO Gary Pruitt’s pay, noting that you have to offer a competitive salary to get a good executive these days. He’s right. Tempers also flared at the Raleigh News & Observer over an executive’s decision to stay at a $210-per-night hotel on a recent visit to the paper just before the layoffs. The Raleigh Chronicle has the dirt, including links to executive blog postings on the topic. The Chronicle also claims that, in blaming the Internet for the company’s fortunates, McClatchy execs failed to note the impact of a strong alternative publishing market on the N&O‘s business. Editor & Publisher‘s Mark Fitzgerald analyzes McClatchy’s $4 billion debt, which seemed worth taking on at the time but which, in retrospect, was horribly timed. Still, McClatchy may be better positioned than most publishers to survive the industry’s collapse, he concludes. Analysts say it’s one of the better managed companies in the business.
Meanwhile, McClatchy editors and columnists weighed in on what comes next. Dave Zeeck at the Tacoma News quotes Mark Twain reasoning that there’ll always be jobs for reporters. Sacramento Bee Editor Melanie Sill is defiant. She points out all the good work the paper is still doing and says the loss of seven editors will just force everyone to be a little more innovative. Meanwhile, Miami Herald ombudsman Edward Schumacher-Matos takes the novel approach of asking readers to tell him what choices they think the paper should make. And Bob Ray Sanders of the Fort Worth Star Telegram compares the whole thing to a funeral in a dour, backward-looking essay.
And in Non-McClatchy News…
Add Hearst Corp. to the list of publishers struggling with the shifting winds of the industry. The publisher of 15 dailies and more than 200 magazines lost its CEO of 15 years last week over an apparent policy dispute with the board. Hearst has managed to make some smart bets online over the last decade, buying it a degree of insulation from the industry’s troubles, but with its San Francisco Chronicle serving as the poster child for newspaper collapse, it perhaps can’t change strategy quickly enough. Poynter’s Rick Edmonds speculates about what’s been going on in the Hearst board room and remarks upon Hearst’s unusual management trust, which expires upon the death of the last family member who was living at the time of William Randolph’s death in 1951.
By the way, where’s Belo Corp. in all the recent layoff activity? Jeff Siegel notes that last week’s bloodbath at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram should be putting pressure on the Dallas Morning News to cut back, but owner Belo has been strangely silent. So the stock market is speaking, knocking Belo shares about 6% lower last week. If the Star-Telegram can cut a sixth of its editorial staff with impunity, can the Morning News afford not to notice?
Forecasts of the impending death of the Sun-Times Media Group are greatly exaggerated, at least according to company executives. The struggling company, which has been saddled by the misdeeds of former executives, has $120 million in the bank and is ready for the worst, top managers told shareholders last week. In fact, CEO Cyrus Freidheim actually believes newspapers will rebound when the economy does in a year or two. His optimism is striking in light of the company’s recent announcement that it is “exploring strategic alternatives,” which is a euphemism for finding a buyer.
Tribune Exec’s Memos Invite Staff Derision
When chief scientists from Google speak, the technology media hang on their every word. Contrast that to Tribune Co., whose executives increasingly look like the village idiots of the newspaper world. The company’s chief innovation officer, Lee Abrams, is fond of sending memos about how the industry can reinvent itself. They’re a rambling brain dump from someone whose lack of insight is almost painful to read. Now parodies are springing up, and P.J. Gladnick excerpts a few from the Poynter discussion forums. Read one of Abrams’ original works on LA Observed before looking at the knock-offs. This is some great satirical writing which is unfortunately being shared amongst only a few insiders. Steve Outing comments that Abrams probably disenfranchised his audience at the outset by admitting that he had “NO idea that reporters were around the globe reporting the news.â€ Outing titles his blog post bluntly: “Are we watching a Tribune train wreck in progress?”
- The Eugene Register-Guard will cut its work force by 30 employees, or 12 percent of its 260-person full-time workforce. The paper will try to achieve the reductions through a combination of buyouts and unfilled vacancies, although the publisher wouldn’t rule out layoffs.
- The Cleveland Plain Dealer isn’t laying off – yet. Although two news outlets have reported that dozens of jobs have been cut, Publisher Terrance Egger issued a denial, saying the reports are “100% not accurate.” However, the debate may be a matter of semantics. “Given the current economic conditions and trends, we cannot maintain the current expense base and stay viable,” Egger told Editor & Publisher. A local alternative reporter wrote on his blog last week that executives have told staff that they plan “to cut 35 pages a week from its news pages and 20 percent of its workforce.” The paper employs 304 newsroom staffers.
Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts shows why the people who run newspapers now are not the ones who will reinvent the industry. In a column that is striking in its lack of insight into the troubles facing his own industry, Pitts announces that he’s changed his thinking and now believes that maybe online should come first, that newspaper websites should be the principal online destination for local residents and that people should pay for that service. This was conventional industry wisdom circa 2001. Then Pitts notes that he’s come to this view reluctantly and mainly because he’s afraid of losing his job. Unfortunately, folks like Leonard will lose their jobs anyway because they’re being dragged kicking and screaming into the future. Cynical attempts at defining a solution only make them look more clueless. And solutions like those he proposes are what got the industry in trouble in the first place.
One of the week’s more convoluted exercises in deductive reasoning comes from the Mercury News‘ Dale Bryant. In an unusual inversion of the rules of supply and demand, she blames the surging price of newsprint on the lack of demand: “With less construction, there is less wood waste that would have found its way to pulp mills and eventually to newsprint. In response to rising costs, newspapers have cut back on the use of newsprint, trimming the size of papers as well as turning to the Internet. That has caused prices to go even higher,” she writes. The result is that the Merc is cutting back on some of its print sections, but that’s actually in the readers’ interests. “[T]he choices we’ve made are based on our belief that what’s most important to our readers is that we continue providing news about your local community,” Bryant concludes, bringing new meaning to the concept of “less is more.”
This entry was posted on Monday, June 23rd, 2008 at 6:57 am and is filed under Business News, BusinessModel, Citizen Journalism, Journalism, Layoffs, Local news, NewMedia, Newspapers. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.