By paulgillin | October 17, 2008 - 6:36 am - Posted in Business News, BusinessModel, Future of Journalism, Journalism, Layoffs, NewMedia, Newspapers

Unlike many newspapers, the Death Watch functions as a nonprofit (although, in the recent words of Wall Street Journal Managing Editor Robert Thomson, the same thing could be said about many newspapers these days), so an extremely busy week has forced us to pull back on updates.  Here are a few recent items we’ve noticed.

WNYC’s On the Media has an audio interview with Lee Abrams, Chief Innovation Officer at Tribune Co. Abrams addresses the widespread perception that he is, well, a little crazy. Are you slightly unhinged? the radio station asks? “Maybe, if that’s what it takes,” Abrams responds. He also praises some advertising sections for being readable and useful and chides journalists for not accepting that fact. And he’s surprised that papers like the Chicago Tribune don’t promote more forcefully the fact that they have reporters on the ground in placed like Baghdad.

“I’ve never seen an industry more negative,” Abrams says, citing a Tribune editorial that called the paper’s recent makeover nothing more than a campaign to publish on the cheap. “That’s typical of the whole newspaper businesses’ point of view. I’ve never seen an industry more negative in articles like that…If [the industry] was in free fall, you’d think they’d be trying more things.”

Abrams has been more outspoken recently.  He was at the Dow Jones/Nielsen Media & Money Conference this week, where he tweaked one of Tribune Co.’s South Florida properties for running stories that even the reporters agreed were boring.  Abrams also challenged what he called the myth that staff cuts cheapen content and he called the idea of a government bailout for the industry “terrible. Newspapers would then focus on this ultra-elite point-five-percent and create these papers that are just unreachable to a mass audience,” he said.

Robert Thomson, the Wall Street Journal’s managing editor, seems to agree.  “Part of the problem is… you had a journalistic culture which was very self-indulgent, self-reverential and self-referential.  It wasn’t referring to reader’s interests’ but more to journalistic self-devotion,” he told the crowd.


Gawker’s Nick Denton says The New York Times is planning 20% staff cuts in the newsroom, with the feature sections and magazine staffs to absorb the brunt of the hit.  He doesn’t quote any sources, though.


The 120,000-circulation Winnipeg Free Press will be on an erratic publishing schedule for a while after 1,000 employees walked off the job on Monday, demanding a new contract.  The union is asking for a 3% increase on a multi-year contract.  Publisher Bob Cox said the Free Press will continue to publish via its website and won’t charge readers for missed papers.


A Las Vegas publisher of niche newspapers and magazines laid off as much as 10 percent of its staff this week, or about 20 employees the Las Vegas Review-Journal says. Greenspun Media Group, a sister company of the Las Vegas Sun newspaper, idled the editor of H&D, a glossy bi-monthly home and design magazine, a reporter for the special sections division at the weekly In Business Las Vegas and a few other people.


Writing for Reuters blogs, Robert MacMillan quotes former Merrill Lynch newspaper publisher analyst Lauren Rich Fine as being cautiously optimistic about the long-term outlook for newspapers.  “Most of these companies can still be decent businesses.  They just have to rethink their expectations,” Fine says.  MacMillan also has encouraging words from Goldman Sachs analyst Peter Appert, who believes that newspaper companies will survive in the long term, although at much lower margins.  What’s the timeframe?  At least five years, Appert believes. For now, he’s advising clients to underweight the stocks.


John Schuster wonders how long Tucson, Arizona can continue to be a two-daily town.  The East Valley Valley Tribune announced huge cutbacks last week and the rival Arizona Daily Star is owned by Lee Enterprises, a company that is in severe financial straits.  Meanwhile, public faith in journalism wasn’t helped by an incident at the student newspaper of the University of Arizona.  A student reporter was recently outed for submitting for stories that allegedly quoted fictitious sources.

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This entry was posted on Friday, October 17th, 2008 at 6:36 am and is filed under Business News, BusinessModel, Future of Journalism, Journalism, Layoffs, NewMedia, Newspapers. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

Comments Off on TGIF 10/17/08

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  1. October 17, 2008 @ 9:19 pm



    The Winnipeg Free Press has 120,000 circulation and 1,000 staff.

    That’s one staffer to every 120 readers. Assuming an average staffer earns $36k, this paper needs to make $300 per reader per year just to pay its staff. Is this sustainable?

    Posted by Evil Pundit
  2. October 21, 2008 @ 5:01 am



    […] TGIF 10/17/08 Unlike many newspapers, the Death Watch functions as a nonprofit (although, in the recent words of Wall Street Journal Managing Editor Robert Thomson, the same thing could be said about many newspapers these days), so an extremely busy … […]