By paulgillin | April 8, 2008 - 8:13 am - Posted in BusinessModel, Layoffs, NewMedia, Newspapers

Tribune Co. Faces Default Threat

Reuters digs into Tribune Co.’s finances and decides that they’re pretty grim. Unless the current ad revenue trend turns around, Tribune could default on nearly $4 billion in debt and interest payments due at the end of 2009. That could force the company into receivership and asset sales. However, CEO Sam Zell is going to have to sell assets to cover debt payments, anyway. Reuters says Tribune’s previous management grossly underestimated the 2007/2008 revenue picture, which raises the question of whether Zell would have a legal case that he was sold a bill of goods.

Best quote in the story is from Zell, who recently joked to an audience that going from real estate to newspapers was like “going from leprosy to cancer.” He sure knows how to motivate the troops. Meanwhile a Lehman Brothers Analyst is reducing guidance on McClatchy’s earnings, saying it also faces a risk of default.


LA Observed has assembled some of the parting e-mails sent by laid-off staffers at the LA Times. Several take shots at TribCo owner Sam Zell. “You want people to ‘Talk to Sam’ but not to ‘Talkback to Sam,'” says one.

But Journal Register May Go First

Looks like the Journal Register could be the first big newspaper company to go bankrupt. Editor & Publisher quotes the New York Times as saying that the company may be unable to service its $625 million debt load on revenues that were $90 million last year and that could fall to $70 million this year. This creates the nightmare prospect of JPMorgan Chase and Deutsche Bank owning a newspaper company, which has never happened before in this traditionally predictable and stable business. It’s also hard to imagine who would buy the assets for something more than pennies on the dollar. Sam Zell, perhaps?

Some Newspapers Doing Just Fine, Thank You

The media buzz over the tailspin of major metro dailies obscures the fact that there are newspapers that are actually growing. New America Media notes that the ethic press is benefiting from the tide of immigration and actually creating jobs where the dailies are laying off. Daily newspapers in Korean, Chinese and Spanish are seeing healthy circulation growth, although they struggle with the same advertiser reticence as their English-language counterparts.

Dallas Publisher Urges Focus on Future

James Moroney, publisher and CEO of Dallas Morning News, told the 9th International Online Journalism Symposium what newspapers must do to survive. “If you are in the newspaper business, you are in the business of managing decline. If you are in the news and information business, then you have a healthy future,” he said. His organization has a strategy built all around hyper-local. No numbers cited.

TV Layoffs Hit Most Visible Journalists

Brittney Gilbert, who blogs for KPIX in San Francisco, writes about the layoffs of 14 people at the station, including two reporters who have five Emmys between them. She also notes that she, who looks to be about 27, was spared. This is the form that layoffs usually take, unfortunately. The most seasoned, highest paid staffers are the first to go. And who’s going to hire them?

Vermont Publisher Leaves for No Apparent Reason

The publisher of the Brattleboro Reformer is leaving after only two years. He says he likes Brattleboro and he isn’t leaving for any particular reason. No one seems to question why he would quit so early in his tenure. It’s all very Brattleboro.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, April 8th, 2008 at 8:13 am and is filed under BusinessModel, Layoffs, NewMedia, Newspapers. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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  1. April 9, 2008 @ 1:24 am



    The story on Journal Register is not surprising. Even in the newspaper big profit days of the early 200s, they were cost cutting. They also do nothing to improve their product except cut staff. The papers all have those awful coloring in the mastheads. I mean, try a redesign one time and change the look of the dreadful product. They are the worst of the worst. They never changed their game plan and now they are about to go under. At least most companies would have tried something.

    Posted by Newspaper fan
  2. April 10, 2008 @ 8:57 pm



    For the past 15 or 20 years the Brattleboro Reformer has had a procession of editors and publishers, almost like musical chairs.

    I had made it a practice to welcome each editor or publisher with a gift, but because of the speed at which they come and go I have decided to save the gift to mark their 10th year, if any of them actually last that long. Brattleboro is a town of 12,300 people with a sense of community, so having our local paper owned by MediaNews Group feels like an irritant to many locals, and outside editors who do not really seem to understand local values exacerbates the annoyance.

    When I met the now outgoing publisher, I gave him a very warm welcome but the next time he saw me he did not seem to recognize me. That made me feel slightly foolish, as though I had acted like a puppy dog running up to him wagging my tale.

    A couple of weeks ago I saw him in the lobby of a theater during intermission, and soon realized that I was not going to catch his eye, we were not going to say, “hello.” I looked at his face and he seemed to be glazed over. Who knows what is really going on, but when someone quits with no explanation — not even “to spend more time with my family,” or because “life is an adventure and it is time to move on — you really have to wonder.

    Posted by Steven K-Brooks
  3. April 11, 2008 @ 4:24 am



    Thanks for your comment. Turnover like that is almost always indicative of an upper-management problem.

    Posted by paulgillin
  4. May 12, 2008 @ 12:25 pm



    I am a victim of Steven K-Brooks’ harrassment of Reformer staff. Several years ago, I refused to slant my coverage of a local issue to favor K-Brooks’ point of view. He responded by cricitizing my every story, showing up at local events I had to cover, taking my picture, spreading libelous leaflets on car windshields and badgering my cowardly superiors. His harrassment cost me my job. I can provide documentary evidence of this campaign.

    K-Brooks falsely characterizes himself as a journalist; he has never worked for a news organization and the closest he ever gets is writing specialty articles on real estate, thohg he did manage to get a pair of articles in Editor & Publisher back in 1989.

    If the Reformer’s publisher left suddenly, I would not be surprised if getting away from K-Brooks had a lot to do with it.

    Posted by Stephen Seitz
  5. May 12, 2008 @ 3:25 pm



    I sense a pattern emerging here…

    Posted by Paul Gillin