An intern at the Tampa Tribune has posted excerpts from a remarkable speech by Editor in Chief Janet Coats to her newsroom the other day. The newspaper had just announced plans to cut its newsroom staff by about 10% or 21 people. Coats said some politically unpopular things. â€œâ€œPeople need to stop looking at TBO.com as an add-on to the Tampa Tribune,â€ intern Jessica DaSilva quotes Coats as saying. â€œThe truth is that The Tampa Tribune is an add-on to TBO.â€
Coats went on to compare the newspaper industry to the music industry, which is in a death spiral of its own right now. Demand for music has never been higher, but the record industry is hemorrhaging because its business model is tied to a distribution system that is now irrelevant. Newspapers will enter a death spiral of their own if they don’t change their thinking, Coats said.
Janet Coats is one smart editor, and let’s hope her staff responds to her rallying cry: â€œIt’s worth fighting for.â€ While they’re at it, find a full-time job for Jessica DaSilva, who turns in a nice piece of reporting here.
Latest Cutbacks May Not Go Far Enough
Alan Mutter has a fascinating analysis of newspaper industry layoffs. He counts up all the cuts announced this year, compares them to previous downturns and concludes that publishers are cutting back far too little. In previous slowdowns, Mutter demonstrates, publishers cut headcount roughly in line with ad declines. This time around, though, they’ve trimmed less aggressively. It could be that publishers’ decisions to cut expenses in 2005, when business was good, made them think they were ahead of the game, but they’re actually falling further and further behind as the ad business spirals downward.
This is depressing news, and it further supports the likelihood that a death spiral is beginning. Death spirals happen when revenues decline faster than expenses. Companies avoid tough decisions about cost cuts, figuring that things will get better and they want to retain their best people. When things don’t get better, they find themselves scrambling to shed workers as quickly as possible. They take a hatchet to their workforce, which scares employees and spooks investors. The best people leave and the remaining employees cower in a corner, getting little done and mostly speculating about the next round of cost cuts. This happens every time a big corporation goes off a cliff, and the same scenario is ominously forming in newspapers today.
In light of Mutter’s analysis, the Tribune Co.’s recent aggressive cost-cutting measures may be smart business. Yesterday’s 250-person layoff at the Los Angeles Times, for example, was more than 8% of the total workforce. Nevertheless, with revenues falling at a 14% clip in the first quarter, it still may not be enough. Which sucks.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel will cut 130 people, or about 10% of its workforce. Management is hoping to use buyouts and attrition, but will resort to layoffs to meet the number. The Journal Sentinel just won a Pulitzer.
Getting on the Hyper-local Train…Or Not
The Santa Cruz Sentinel is the latest paper to joint the reader-generated content trend. But instead of celebrating the addition of community-contributed articles to the new â€œPerspectivesâ€ section, an editorial presumably written by EIC Don Miller under the dour headline of â€œMore changes at the Sentinelâ€ makes it clear that this was not a popular decision. â€œI try to keep all these changes in … perspective. Because change is what is happening,â€ says the writer. â€œAnd for newspapers, in whatever form they will be published and delivered, to survive, change is what we have to do.â€ Wow, that oughta rally the community! (via Editors Weblog)
Steve Outing vamps on an earlier opinion he wrote with the controversial position that local news can be boring. Outing, who is an unabashed supporter of the â€œhyper-localâ€ concept, uses his hometown newspaper as an example. The section devoted to reader-contributed items is full of uninteresting, poorly written and marginally relevant content. â€œIâ€™m a believer in hyper-local! I just donâ€™t think weâ€™re doing it right yet,â€ he writes. Good point. Hyper-local doesn’t mean publishing every 4-H Club meeting announcement and blog entry citizens that citizens contribute. It’s about constructing a new kind of news service that targets specific interests. The prolific Outing offers some of his own ideas.
A columnist for the Rocky Mountain News proposes a novel idea: shut down his newspaper. Or maybe close the Denver Post. Either/or. The current business model isn’t working, says David Milstead. Denver has a been a joint operating agreement town for eight years, but the uneasy alliance between owners E.W. Scripps and Media General hasn’t led to sustained profitability for either of Denver’s two papers. Perhaps the best course of action is to shutter the weaker paper and the weaker website. Milstead suggests that this could result in the News continuing in print while the Post serves Denver online.
If you want to see heartening examples of the innovative things newspapers are doing, subscribe to Editor & Publisher’s Best of the Web feed.
McClatchy Vice President of News, Howard Weaver, has set up a wiki to seek ideas from staff members and really anyone who wants to weigh in. It’s lightly trafficked so far, but it’s still early. Advice to Weaver: the vast majority of wikis go nowhere. There seem to be two elements of success: 1) People have no other other way (like e-mail) to express their opinions; and 2) One or more people are actively tending the fires, responding to comments and posting new material. Just because you build it doesn’t mean they’ll come.
The Review-Atlas of Galesburg-Monmouth, IL will drop its Monday edition, following the lead of several small papers that have scaled back frequency in the same of cost savings. Monday is the smallest issue of the week for most newspapers and frequently loses money.
If the industry’s troubles have got you in a bad mood and you want to blog off some steam, change the routine a bit. Find an insult that’sÂ more offensive that the usual F-bomb and use language that won’t make a bad impression on the 4-year-old is in the back seat. Brush up on your scurrilous vernacular with the Shakespeare insult kit. Take it from the Bard himself and don’t be a qualling hedge-born moldwarp.
This entry was posted on Thursday, July 3rd, 2008 at 7:28 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.