Category Archives: Blood on the Newsroom Floor

The latest news on news media layoffs and downsizings.

Chart of the day II: The Fourth Estate, dying


From the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press:

BLOG Newsroom jobs

Chart of the day: No faith in newspapers


Some truly bad news for ink-stained wretches today from Gallup, graphic proof that the massive layoffs and all-too-numerous closings of the nation’s newspapers are taking their toll:

BLOG Newspaper confidencer

Blood on the Newsroom Floor: Now with Greece


It’s been too many months — months featuring cancer surgery and a long and arduous regimen of chemo — since we chronicled the pliht of the ever-diminishing news media.

So forgive a long post, one that begins with a cut to public television in Athens, then winds its way much closer to home, with scores of jobs lost at U.S. newspapers and a major cut to our own public teleivison.

Austerity zealots gut Greek public TV

Austerity claimed a major victim in Greece Wednesday, the country’s public television network.

Precisely who’s to blame is an open question, with politicians of the coalition government blaming the European Commission, a charge denied by the EC itself.

A video report from Euronews:

Greek economist Yanis Varoufakis desribed his immediate response when the screen faded to black:

For those of us who grew up in the Greece of the neo-fascist colonels, nothing can stir up painful memories like a modern act of totalitarianism. When the television screen froze last night, an hour before midnight, as if some sinister power from beyond had pressed a hideous pause button, I was suddenly transported to the 60s and early 70s when a disruption in television or radio output was a sure sign that another coup d’ etat was in the offing. The only difference was that last night the screen just froze; with journalists still appearing tantalisingly close to finishing their sentence. At least the colonels had the good sense of pasting a picture of the Greek flag, accompanied by military tunes…

After the state channels froze on our screens, I turned to the commercial ones assuming that this major piece of news would be recorded and commented upon by them. Not a word. Soaps, second rate movies and informationals. That was all we got. As if ERT’s, the public radio and television service’s, instant demise was not worth a mention by their commercial competitors.

Read the rest.

More from Lefteris Papadimas and Renee Maltezou of Reuters:

Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras faced a political revolt on Wednesday from his ruling coalition partners after the government abruptly switched the state broadcaster off the air in the middle of the night.

Screens went black on state broadcaster ERT, cutting newscasters off mid-sentence only hours after the decision was announced, in what the government said was a temporary measure to staunch a waste of taxpayers’ money.

Unions called a 24-hour nationwide general strike in protest, and journalists across all media called an indefinite strike. Some newspapers were shut and private TV stations broadcast reruns of soap operas and sitcoms instead of the news.

Samaras’s centre-left coalition partners said they were furious at the decision to shut the broadcaster and had not been consulted. Coalition party leaders were meeting as night fell, with the suggestion left hovering in the air that they could force Samaras into a confidence vote which could bring him down.

Read the rest.

Christine Pirovolakis of Deutsche Presse-agentur reports on the workers’ response:

Journalists from the Greek public broadcaster ERT, which was suddenly shut down by the government because of austerity cuts, broadcast Wednesday via the internet in a show of defiance while their colleagues across the country held an indefinite strike.

Broadcasts continued throughout the night after the government brought 75 years of operations to an end Tuesday.

The ERT journalists, joined by thousands of supporters outside the broadcaster’s main headquarters, attacked the government over the shutdown and lay-offs of about 2,500 employees as part of cost-cutting measures demanded by the country’s international lenders.

The head of Greece’s Journalism Association, Dimitris Trimis, said television, radio and newspaper journalists from across the country were holding an indefinite strike in a show of support. The strike lead to a news blackout across Greece.

Read the rest.

The ultimate goal is the usual move: A shutdown followed by a reorganization with a smaller and thoroughly cowed cast of broadcasters, as evidenced by this report from Dimitris Ioannou of AlYunaniya.com:

Government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou yesterday announced the closure of the state broadcasting organisation ERT; all ERT transmissions throughout Greece stopped yesterday at 11.14 pm.

>snip<

The government has circulated a non-paper, calling the move a decision of high symbolism as regards the streamlining of the Greek public sector.

Kedikoglou said that ERT would be replaced by a modern, public but not state-owned broadcasting body. All ERT’s staff will receive the normal redundancy compensation and that the new body will operate with less staff.

During the intervening period between its closure and the launch of the new organisation, the public will not have to pay fees for ERT, he added.

Read the rest.

While the government of New democracy Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has claimed the drastic moves were dictated by the EC’s austerity policies, the EC says not so, as Ekathemerini reports:

The European Commission did not seek the closure of Greek national broadcaster ERT, Brussels said in a statement released on Wednesday.

According to the statement, the Commission has taken note of the decision of the Greek government to close down ERT, referring to a decision taken in “full autonomy.”

The Commission does not question the Greek government’s “mandate to manage the public sector. The decision of the Greek authorities should be seen in the context of the major and necessary efforts that the authorities are taking to modernise the Greek economy,” the statement read.

Read the rest.

So the EC is basically saying that while they call the tune, they don’t write the lyrics.

More from Eur-Activ:

[O]pposition leader Alexis Tsipras called the closure “a coup, not only against ERT workers but against the Greek people”, and accused the government of the “historic responsibility of gagging state TV”.

The decision was made by ministerial decree, meaning that it could be implemented without reference to parliament.

“Journalism is being persecuted. We won’t allow the voice of Greece to be silenced,” said George Savvidis, the chief of journalists’ labour union POESY.

Read the rest.

And, finally, there’s this response from Anonymous:

American public television takes a hit

The victim is PBS and its flagship evening news broadcast and two of its major news bureaus.

From TV Newser’s Alex Weprin:

The “PBS NewsHour” is laying off staff in a significant reorganization, TVNewser has learned.

According to an internal memo obtained by TVNewser, MacNeil/Lehrer Productions — which produces the “NewsHour” — will be shutting down its offices in Denver and San Francisco, eliminating nearly all the positions there. The company will also eliminate several production positions in its Washington DC office, while leaving two open senior-level roles unfilled.The “NewsHour” is also planning to save money by streamlining and digitizing its technical process.

“This difficult step comes after more than a year spent reviewing how the ‘NewsHour’ functions, and determining the streamlining necessary to address both the funding challenges (primarily a steady drop in corporate revenue) and the opportunities presented by new technologies,” wrote “NewsHour” EP Linda Winslow and MacNeil/Lehrer president Bo Jones in the memo to staff.

The changes will go into effect at the start of the new fiscal year, July 1.

Read the rest.

More from the New York Times’ Brian Stelter:

Earlier this year, public television employees who were not authorized to speak publicly told The New York Times that the production company was facing a shortfall of up to $7 million, a quarter of its $28 million overall budget, in the fiscal year that ends this month. The company’s budget outlook for the next fiscal year is unknown.  But a spokeswoman for the “NewsHour” acknowledged that the reorganization, which will take place over several months starting in July, would help balance the budget.

The spokeswoman said that about 10 employees, of 100 in all, would be affected.

Ms. Winslow and Mr. Jones said in their memo that the cuts were a result of, among other things, “a steady drop in corporate revenue.”

Read the rest.

Downsized newsrooms lead to big bonuses

Business as usual continues in the Brave New Newsroom, as reported by journalism blogger Jim Romenesko:

Less than a month after closing two of its Suburban Journals in St. Louis and putting 20 people out of work, Lee Enterprises handed out stock bonuses to eight of its directors.lee According to SEC filings, the Continue reading

Headline and Quote of the day II: Another draft?


From the Hartford [Connecticut] Advocate:

Former Hartford Advocate Writer Brews Unemployed Reporter Porter

From the accompanying story by still-employed Advocate reporter Michael Hamad about the post-newsroom career of Jon Campbell:

“Porter style beers were first popularized in the nineteenth century by merchant sailors and manual dock laborers,” the label reads. “Unemployed Reporter is crafted in the same tradition, honoring a profession likewise doomed to decline and irrelevance.”

For this new class of “expendables,” the label goes on, “we’ve included chocolate and roasted barley malts that are as dark and bitter as the future of American journalism, and a high alcohol content designed to numb the pain of a slow, inexorable march toward obsolescence. While Unemployed Reporter is especially delicious as a breakfast beer, it’s still smooth enough to be enjoyed all day, every day. And let’s be honest: what else do you have going on?”

Chart of the day: Blood on the newsroom floor


From the Bureau of Labor Statistics, graphic proof of the sad state of the community newspaper.

In the ten years between 2001 and 2011, newspaper employment dropped from 404,072 to 239,375, while the number of papers dropped from 9,300 to 8,280 and the average number of employees per paper dropped from 43.4 to 29.9.

BLOG Newspapers

Random Sunday thoughts on the human condition


We began blogging soon after being laid off from our last newspaper job, a consequence of the economic crash and an advertiser boycott of the Berkeley Daily Planet organized by a trio of militant Ziocons.

In the following three years we’ve made 7,296 posts [this is the 7,297th] about a wide range of subjects, selected on the basis of both personal interest and a desire to share our thoughts of issues we think are very important to understand in an age when events are spiraling rapidly toward a critical turning point in the history of both our species and our planet.

In the last year, we’ve been focusing intensely on the developments in Europe, where a concerted efforts is underway to destroy the institutions built up over the course of the last two centuries to stem the rapacity of the financial elites who rose to power through the confluence of forces embodied in the imperial colonial adventures that began in the late 15th Century, the creation of central banks, the invention of the modern corporation as a weapon of colonial conquest, and an industrial revolution by the exploitation of the planet’s non-renewable energy reserves.

We have watched as the forces of money and multinational corporations have eaten away at labor rights, social protections, and the machinery of democratic process — the latter gutted by international treaties transcending national laws and the evolution of powerful and secretive transnational organizations.

All of this has transpired under an agenda epitomized in the quotation from Aldous Huxley’s Island featured on the blog’s flag: “Armaments, universal debt and planned obsolescence — those are the three pillars of Western prosperity.”

Now, as the era of cheap energy reaches its end and our environment is being poisoned by the “externalities” of the industrial age, we are facing a crisis that is both global in scope and of our own making.

Accompanying this massive transformation and environmental degradation has been the capture of the Western world’s communications media by giant corporations which have severed the links between media and community, laid off most of their journalists, and transformed the media into machines for selling both product and propaganda.

And lest we forget, all the alternative media are carried through corporate channels, and can be shut down by a simple flick of a switch.

Governments that fail to play by the rules set down by the bank-and-corporate-owned governments and transnational alliances of the West are destroyed. While the West was busily demonizing Moammar Gaddafi’s Libya, the flood of stories rarely if ever mentioned that Libyans received guaranteed incomes, health care, housing and education, and that the government had created the greatest civil engineering project of the 20th Century, the Great Man Made River, to bring water to the cities along the coast.

While the West was busily bombing Libya, using bombs from Israel in the case of Denmark, the violence unleashed in the country was carried out in large part by members of the same groups NATO was fighting in Afghanistan — including Al Qaeda. But all this was lost on most of the Western media, which hewed to the official line, just as they did to the myths of Iraqi WMDs.

Death of the American news media

We discovered our journalistic vocation on 9 November 1964, when we walked into the newsroom of the San Luis Valley Courier as a college sophomore and left that night having written the lead front page story and shot the accompanying photo. We’d never thought about reporting before that day.

Of the seven newspapers where we served on staff, only two have survived, the Las Vegas-Review-Journal and the Sacramento Bee. All the rest were either merged into larger, chain-owned papers or succumbed to the loss of advertising revenues and subscribers that have plagued the American press over the last 35 years.

In the most extreme case, the Oceanside Blade-Tribune — where we served first as reporter, then as city editor — the newspaper was bought and folded into a chain. Of the dozen local, community newspapers which then existed in North San Diego County California, only one remains, and that was recently bought by the same owner, Manchester Lynch Integrated Media Holdings [a developer], who bought the only large newspaper in the county as well as one of the last remaining papers in Riverside County to the north. The inevitable layoffs followed.

This cartoon, from another since-closed paper, deftly sums up our concern:


So we’ll keep writing as long as we’re able.

The world’s in trouble, and it’s up to us to act.

Chart of the day: Black and white and dead all over


From Carpe Diem, graphic evidence of the rapid demise of the American newspaper:

Syrian rebels set up Brit journo for slaughter


And they did it to generate bad press for the government of Bashir Assad, says ITN news reporter Alec Thomson.

“I’m quite clear the rebels deliberately set us up to be shot by the Syrian Army. Dead journos are bad for Damascus,” Thomson, who reports for Channel 4 News, in Britain, writes in his personal blog:

Please, do not for one me moment believe that my experience with the rebels in al Qusair was a one-off.

This morning I received the following tweet:

“@alextomo I read your piece “set up to be shot in no mans land”, I can relate as I had that same experience in Al Zabadani during our tour.”

That was from Nawaf al Thani, who is a human rights lawyer and a member of the Arab League Observer mission to Syria earlier this year.

It has to make you wonder who else has had this experience when attempting to find out what is going on in rebel-held Syria.

Read the rest.

The only video we can find abut the incident is from RT, and hasn’t been posted on You Tube.

Here’s an excerpt from the transcript:

My point is, dead journalists are bad for Damascus. When Marie Colvin, the British journalist got killed because she was in a building which was shelled by the Syrian army in Homs, that was an appalling propaganda blow for the Damascus regime. You don’t have to be very clever to work out that the deaths of any journalist at the hands of the Syrian army are going to be an appalling blow, again, for President Assad. That’s going to reflect all the way to Moscow and all the way to Beijing. Clearly that is going to be a bad thing in terms of propaganda. So the motivation for the rebels to pull a stunt like that seems to be very obvious. I’m not angry about it, I’m not upset about it, this is a war and these things will be done. Both sides are involved in very dirty tactics in this war. This is a nasty and dirty war on both sides.

The perils of ‘parachute journalism’

The mainstream media, as we’ve been chronicling, has been drastically downsized, and costly foreign bureaus have been the very first casualties.

The result has been hit-and-run coverage of a sort given a peculiar name by folks in the news world.

In a 2006 piece for American Journalism Review Sherry Ricchiardi described the peculiar art of what folks in the news biz call parachute journalism:

News managers interviewed for this story seem resigned to the fact that robust overseas bureaus are largely artifacts of a bygone era, like typewriters and rotary phones. Instead, with a few exceptions, foreign news has entered a phase of crisis journalism — the flood-the-zone, event-driven coverage Americans witnessed during July’s Middle East crisis. The audience has little or no history before the story breaks into headlines; there has been no foreshadowing. (This is precisely what has happened in Afghanistan, where the American press corps has dwindled dramatically while conditions continue to worsen — see “The Forgotten War,” August/September.)

This approach results in a shorter media attention span. When the shooting ends, reporters scatter as quickly as they came. “We’ll pull our journalistic shock troops out, and we’ll redeploy them somewhere else because we only have a handful,” [former ABC News journalist Ted] Koppel says.

Read the rest.

So who do reporters rely on when they arrive in a strange land whose language they don’t speak?

From a 2002 essay by Marjie Lundstrom of the Sacramento Bee, writing for the Potnter Institute [emphasis added]:

When journalists go to work in a country where they do not understand the language or the culture, they typically make use of the invaluable services of fixer interpreters, whose impact on global public opinion is invariably underestimated. They are the ones who, while remaining largely invisible, offer clear guidance as to how conflicts should be interpreted, as well as which sources should be chosen and which words used.

Now add another ingredient to the mix

It took WikiLeaks to expose the dark side of those“democratic” rebels who fought to overthrow the Libyan government, the same ones who were acting as guides to the Western media types who reported on such notorious disinformation as the subsequently debunked claims that Moammar Gaddafi was dosing troops with Viagra to ensure they’d rape rebels, or that his troops were bolstered by black African mercenaries.

There was no Viagra, no “mercenaries,” though plenty of black Africans were slaughtered by rebel forces.

But the stories worked, whipping up resentment and offering justification to the likes of Barack Obama and Nicolas Sarkozy.

Now that Thomson’s story has come to light, we should be asking lots of questions about just how our news media are getting their stories after they unpack their parachutes.

The obvious questions focus on just who those translator/fixers are. Given that the U.S. has been pushing for the overthrow of the Syrian government for decades, one might reasonably ask if any of those oh-so-helpful folk are tied to intelligence agencies, U.S., British, French, or other.

But when you hit the ground running, you don’t have time for lengthy background checks, so you just take what you’re given.

But if Libya has taught us any lessons at all, we should all be asking serious questions.

Blood on the Newsroom Floor: Lois Lane’s advice


We’ve already taken it.

From editorial cartoonist David Horsey, via Jim Romenesko:

Blood on the Newsroom Floor: Lots more flowing


The biggest story is in New Orleans, which is becoming the largest city in the country without a daily newspaper.

There’s a body count to report closer to ensl’s home, layoffs in Saint Louis, and more.

Digital First cuts copy desk in Bay Area, Denver

Digital First controls the largest share of newspaper circulation in California as the successor to MediaNews, and it owns most of the papers in the San Francisco Bay Area from San Jose to Marin County.

The company is following the latest trend in a dying newspaper industry, one certain to lead to a further fall in its reputation: They’re slashing away at the copy desk, eliminating editors who vet stories for accuracy and style.

The first move came in the consolidation of copy desk, removing editing from individual newsrooms, where editors are more likely to catch mistakes because they know the community. Now they’re slashing away at the consolidated desks, both in the Bay Area and at the chain’s flagship Denver Post.

From Steve Myers of MediaWire:

San Jose Mercury News Editor Dave Butler, who oversees Bay Area News Group, and Gregory Moore, editor of the Denver Post, said in separate phone interviews that they’ve finalized the cuts that they outlined in April.

The final numbers at Contra Costa:

  • Five copy editors laid off
  • Four transferred into vacant reporting positions
  • Two resigned just before the cuts to take jobs elsewhere
  • Up to 10 weekly part-time shifts eliminated

All told, 13 full-time equivalent positions were cut, Butler told me.

At the Post, no one with the title of copy editor will be employed at the paper after June 15. Of the 23 people on the copy desk:

  • 11 are resigning with severance and an enhanced health care package.
  • One copy editor is moving to a reporting position.
    Another is going to the design desk.
  • The copy desk chief will become a production manager.
  • The remaining nine former copy editors will become “assistant editors” assigned to desks (business, features, Metro, sports) throughout the newsroom.

Each of those desks will operate as “self-contained publishing units,” Moore said.

Read the rest.

The Big Story: New Orleans loses its daily

The Times-Picayune, the paper that won the Pulitzer for its coverage of Hurricane Katrina, is cutting print production to three days a week and, according to one report, laying off a third of its reporters.

From David Carr of the New York Times:

The Times-Picayune newspaper in New Orleans confirmed on Thursday that it would cut back its print publishing schedule to three days a week and lay off an unknown number of staff members.

In an article posted on its Web site, Nola.com, Thursday morning, the paper reported that a new company would be formed called the NOLA Media Group, which would include the paper and the Web site. The newspaper will be home delivered and available in stores on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays only. The Web site, meanwhile, will increase its online news-gathering efforts “24 hours a day.”

Later in the day, three Alabama papers were similarly restructured: The Birmingham News, The Huntsville Times and The Press-Register of Mobile. They will become part of the newly formed Alabama Media Group and will also print only three days a week. The announcement of the changes said there would a reduction in the work force, but did not specify details.

Like the Times-Picayune, they are operated by Newhouse Newspapers, part of Advance Publications. Among the other newspapers owned by Newhouse are The Plain Dealer of Cleveland, The Star-Ledger of Newark and The Oregonian.

Read the rest.

Steve Myers adds this telling fact at MediaWire:

This would make New Orleans the largest U.S. city without a daily newspaper. The Times-Picayune, with a circulation of about 155,000 on Sundays and 134,000 weekdays, would be the largest paper in the U.S. to shift to non-daily publication. Its circulation in March 2005, before Hurricane Katrina flooded the city and shrank the city’s population: about 285,000 on Sundays and 257,000 weekdays.

Read the rest.

Kevin Allman of Gambit, a New Orleans alternative news service reports that 50 newsroom jobs may be axed:

As for what the newsroom itself will become, the outlook is still unclear, though everyone expects significant layoffs to occur soon. . .

A Gambit source. . .said in an email earlier this week that it was expected “the staff will immediately be whacked by at least a third (from 150 to 100 or fewer reporters). Top brass will be fired and reporters who remain aboard will take sharp salary cuts and be expected to start blogging through the day [for affiliated website NOLA.com].”

Read the rest.

More job cuts in St. Louis

And once again it’s copy editors who bear the brunt.

Erica Smith writes at Storify:

Four copy editors, one photographer and an assistant metro editor were laid off today from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in St. Louis.

One of the copy editors was a part-time employee; all others were full-time employees.

Newsroom employees can volunteer to take the place of a laid off employee, according to an internal memo from Post-Dispatch managers. Employees have until June 5 to do so.

Post-Dispatch editor Arnie Robbins retired on Friday. Editorial page editor Gilbert Bailon has taken over.

In March, Lee Enterprises Chief Executive Officer Mary Junck was awarded a $500,000 bonus for refinancing the bankrupt newspaper chain’s debt. The Post-Dispatch is owned by Lee.

Read the rest.

Online Patch chops at editing staff

The AOL-owned company created to fill the gap in local news reporting created by the decline in and closing of print media, hasn’t been able to make a dime, and jobs are getting cut.

From Jim Romenesko:

Patch is realigning, and folding the South zone into the East zone. They laid off key leadership in the South, including Tim Windsor, the former VP of Interactive from the Baltimore Sun. They’re also laying off regional editors today.

Read the rest.

More from the Wall Street Journal’s Keach Hagey:

[AOL Chief Executive Tim] Armstrong, has held his ground in defending Patch, which he co-founded in 2007 before he joined AOL, but he recently promised to make it profitable by next year. In a small step toward that goal, Patch said Tuesday it will cut around 20 jobs, or less than 2% of its workforce. The cuts will come from merging the management of its eastern and southern regional reporting operations.

Whether Mr. Armstrong can make Patch a success could determine his fate at AOL. As the ad-supported network has expanded to more than 850 towns from 30 in the past two years, its annual loss has widened sharply to more than $100 million in 2011, analysts say.

Read the rest.

USA Today guts its African American staff

The target was the sports department.

From Richard Prince at The Root:

Five black sports journalists were laid off at USA Today on Continue reading

Blood on the Newsroom Floor: California jobs


Two California layoff reports, one complete, the other likely, plus support for a layoff victim.

Los Angeles Times kills magazine

California’s largest newspaper is killing its Sunday magazine.

It’s not the first time they’ve done it, but this time there’s no hope of reincarnation, since the strategy of attracting high end advertisers for a publication targeted at and distributed to affluent couldn’t say the supplement.

From Alana Semuels of the Los Angeles Times:

The Los Angeles Times said its Sunday magazine, facing tough challenges, will cease publication.

LA, Los Angeles Times Magazine will print its final issue June 3, Kathy K. Thomson, president and chief operating officer, said in an email Tuesday to employees.

The magazine came out weekly until 2008, when the paper’s editorial department stopped publishing it. The Los Angeles Times Media Group then put out the magazine in a monthly format.

Read the rest.

More from Matthew Fleischer of FishbowlLA:

FishbowlLA spoke with the mag’s editor, Nancie Clare, who told us that the upcoming June issue will be the magazine’s last.

“I think it’s fair to say there were revenue issues,” she tells us. “It’s still a tough economic climate, especially for print. I don’t think they got rid of us because they don’t like us.”

The mag’s staff of seven will be let go. There’s no indication if positions will be available for them in other sections of the paper.

“I think the jury is still out. Part of what’s going on is a contraction. They’re contracting in the newsroom too. There’s nowhere to absorb us.”

Clare says the staff is handling the news stoically.

Read the rest.

Layoffs loom in San Diego, Orange County

That’s if Douglas F. Manchester, the very conservative hotel magnate who bought the San Diego Union Tribune,then rebranded it UT, carries out his buy of the Orange County Register and consolidates the the two newsrooms.

From Don Bauder of San Diego Reader:

John Lynch, chief executive of the UT, told the Downtown Lions in a power point presentation yesterday (May 8) that the UT is in final talks to purchase the Orange County Register, Coast Magazine, and 24 local newspapers in Orange County.

>snip<

A combination of the two news staffs would probably involve more layoffs, although he did not say that, according to Barr.

Barr says Lynch promised more aggressive reporting, a bigger commitment to the Hispanic market, and wider sports coverage. He also talked about the UT’s commitment to a downtown sports stadium, which the paper has covered at length.

Asked about the firing of Tom Blair, longtime popular three-dot columnist, Lynch said veteran staff members have been told they have to “reinvent themselves,” but some “are not going to embrace” the company’s new policy.

Read the rest.

The irony here is that by creating a single regional Southern California newspaper, Lynch’s company would be fulfilling the dreams of the late Los Angeles Times publisher Otis Chandler, who even tried and failed to create a Times San Diego edition way back in the early 1980s.

Fight to save a newsroom ally

There’s a movement underway by reporters at the New York Times to win back the job of a man who played a vital role in the newsroom, the lawyer who vetted their copy for legal problems and helped them craft sharp, incisive stories about sensitive issues.

From Joe Pompeo of New York-based Capital:

A week after the beloved New York Times assistant general counsel George Freeman lost his job in a round of layoffs, nearly 60 Times journalists put their names to a letter to publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. asking him to “reconsider” the decision.

“Time and again, he has gone to bat intelligently, fearlessly and articulately for Times journalists against all sorts of threats from people and institutions we have written the truth about,” the letter, which was obtained by Capital after it was sent via email last Thursday evening, reads in part.

“Many of us have memories of George taking on politicians, entertainment power brokers, companies and others who were sending their lawyers after us,” the letter continues. “He has probably saved the Times millions in legal costs, and helped defend our reputation for accuracy and fairness.”

Read the rest.

Blood on the Newsroom Floor: It’s still flowing


We’ve been remiss in catching up on the latest carnarge in the ink-stained wretch trade, what with all the fascinating news from Europe these days.

But we’re back, and there’s still plenty flowing.

Sad news in Salt Lake

Invariably these days it’s copy editors who lead the list of the laid off.

This is particularly sad, because it ensures that stories won’t get the thorough checking that was characteristic of journalism in its better days.

Even worse, though it’s not the case here, newspaper chains are consolidating the copy editing in distant locales, assigning stories to editors who don’t knew the communities covered in the stories they vet.

From Paul Beebe of the Salt Lake Tribune:

The Salt Lake Tribune on Wednesday laid off nine newsroom employees as it continues to cope with weak advertising revenue and falling print circulation.

The layoffs, 7.5 percent of the newsroom staff, reduce the number of journalists employed at Utah’s largest newspaper to 119 people, Deputy Editor Tim Fitzpatrick said.

Five of those laid off were assigned to the paper’s copy desk. Four worked at other duties in the newsroom.

“We are sorry to see them go,” Editor Nancy Conway said in a message to staffers. “These folks, like everyone in the newsroom, have contributed to the strength of The Salt Lake Tribune and served readers all across the state of Utah.

Read the rest.

Heartache in Hartford

Through buyouts instead of layoffs, the kinder, gentler way of destroying jobs.

From Columbia Journalism Review‘s The Kicker:

The Courant—owned by Tribune since 2000, when the Chicago-based company merged with then-owner, Times Mirror—was caught in the fallout from Tribune’s bankruptcy in late 2008. The newsroom has shrunk from some 400 employees 15 years ago to fewer than 150 today.

The most recent buyout offer, which expired last week, has resulted in the loss of nine more newsroom staffers, including rock critic Eric Danton, columnist Susan Campbell, night editor Nancy Gallinger, reporter Mark Spencer, reader-submitted articles editors Mary Wilson and Sandra James, newsroom assistant Lynne Maston, and sports reporter Shawn Courchesne. I don’t know who the ninth person is, or whether this buyout will be enough to avert layoffs. (update: I’m told the nine employees won’t know officially if their buyout requests are accepted until Friday.)

Read the rest.

Printers de-pressed in Virginia

Not reporters, but comrades in arms. And they’re falling victim to the same consolidation trend as copy editors.

From Poynter’s MediaWire:

Digby Solomon, publisher of the Newport News, Va., Daily Press says consolidating the Daily Press Media Group’s printing at Media General’s Hanover County, Va., plant was “the most viable business option” for the Tribune Company-owned papers. About 85 people who work at the Daily Press’ plant in Newport News will lose their jobs; Solomon tells the Daily Press he’s called local business owners to encourage them to hire the cashiered employees.

Media General prints its Richmond (Va.) Times-Dispatch as well as several other daily and weekly papers at its Hanover plant. Besides their namesake daily, the Daily Press Media Group’s papers include The Virginia Gazette and the Tidewater Review.

In April, Solomon announced the Daily Press would move much of its content behind a paywall. Describing the decision, he wrote that by making content free on the Web initially, “We neglected to leverage the one critical advantage we have over both the big national aggregators like Google and the guys who blog at home: the pros who run the Peninsula’s largest news organization.”

Read the rest.

Maui wowee, 14-18 jobs

This one’s a major cutback, considering the paper’s circulation is under 22,000.

From blogger iLind:

Did you catch the story in the Maui News earlier this week announcing a new contract that includes pay cuts, higher medical premiums, and layoffs?

The story, which ran without a byline, reports 14-18 positions at the newspaper will be eliminated through “voluntary” departures or layoffs. That’s got to be a big chunk of the newspapers staff. The did not say whether a severance package is being offered as an incentive to leave.

Read the rest.

Reporters will be working two-and-a-half hours less each week, a move to delay an overall pay and pension coming in another year.

Better late than never, and local

And it’s about that copy desk consolidation, this time at the Denver Post, which is implementing the same practices carried out the smae owner here in the San Francisco Bay Area.

From Steve Myers of MedaWire:

A memo from Contra Costa Times Executive Editor Dave Butler shows that another MediaNews paper is shifting copy-editing responsibilities within the newsroom. Thursday morning, Westword published a memo from Denver Post Editor Gregory Moore saying copy-editing would be moved to the “content-generating level,” with cuts to the copy-editing staff.

Now Butler tells his staff that senior editors have been discussing changes at the Contra Costa Times and with other Digital First Media newspapers. “Our idea, like Denver’s, is to put more responsibility for copy editing on the editor doing the initial story read — especially on routine stories,” he writes. The changes will result in about 10 to 12 Continue reading

Blood on the Newsroom Floor: We’re Number 5!


That’s newspaper reporting jobs, ranked as number five on the “The 10 Worst Jobs of 2012″ list from CareerCast.

That’s the first bad news we have, along with a report revealing that the current state of American newspaper journalism is likely to drive precisely the most idealist journalists out of the craft.

Then there are stories about pending layoffs through buyouts, more corporate demands for pay cuts through enforced time off, the decline of minorities in journalism, huge layoffs at Canada’s public television network, and, finally, some links to stories about folks who really do deserve to lose their jobs.

The fifth worst job in America

First up, the grim summary from CareerCast about why they picked newspaper reporting as the fifth worst job in Amerrica:

For the first time ever, two different media jobs made our Worst Jobs list: Newspaper Reporter and Broadcaster. As the digital world continues to take over and provide on-demand information, the need for print newspapers and daily newscasts is diminishing. To be sure, both jobs once seemed glamorous, but on-the-job stress, declining job opportunities and income levels are what landed them on our Worst Jobs list.

“You can definitely see a decline in the industry. As a sports reporter, there used to be several reporters at an event and now, sometimes, I’m the only one,” says David Campbell, a Reporter and Editor for a Pennsylvania newspaper. What has led to the decline in newspapers, Campbell says, is apathy. “Today’s younger generation doesn’t seem to care about the news, and, if they do, it’s more about celebrities and Hollywood and not what’s going on in their backyards.”

Gee, ya think so?

Miserable conditions are driving out the best

More grim news come from University of Kansas journalism prof Scott Reinardy who surveyed 2,100 members of the working press about their job satisfaction.

Some highlights:

Reinardy conducted a survey of more than 2,100 working journalists to determine how they view themselves, how they view their work and whether they plan to continue working as journalists. He asked journalists questions about job security, organizational commitment, overall job satisfaction, coping strategies and job quality.

In terms of job security, respondents were asked whether they thought their job was secure, or whether they felt they might be laid off as well. Employees are often worried when layoffs are happening, especially if the method by which they are carried out is not clear to employees. Many of the respondents said some of their colleagues who were laid off consistently received good job reviews.

“That really chips away at your self-esteem,” Reinardy said of uncertain job security.

>snip<

Changing duties, increased workloads and other results of layoffs have real effects on not only how journalists view themselves and the profession, but on the very field of journalism. Not only are many good journalists losing jobs, those remaining may become more and more likely to leave voluntarily.

“Understanding the perspective of remaining journalists can assist in developing managerial strategies to bolster self-affirmation among newsroom employees,” Reinardy wrote. “Addressing these issues becomes salient when layoff fears rise, job satisfaction dwindles, and the quality and quantity of work diminishes. When these situations occur, newspapers won’t need to initiate further layoffs; good journalists will choose to leave on their own.”

Read the rest.

Not layoffs yet in Milwaukee, but soon?

We suspect layoffs are in the works at that city’s Journal-Sentinel if enough employees don’t take the buyouts currently on offer.

From Milwaukee Magazine:

Once again, the Journal Sentinel is offering to buy out employees. A letter to employees on Monday, first reported by Jim Romenesko, says the deal is being offered throughout the company, “including the corporate IT department.” That suggests perhaps newsroom people aren’t the primary target, as newsroom union president Tom Silverstein told members the same day. (That letter is also at Milwaukee Magazine alum Romenesko’s blog.) But Silverstein noted in his correspondence that he made no predictions, “in light of previous curveballs the company has thrown at the last minute.”

Asked about the new buyout offer this week, Silverstein declined comment.

The latest offer comes amid continued labor negotiations on a contract that have been dragging on for nine months. Tensions have been mounting, symbolized by a recent campaign of desk signs that the union, Newspaper Guild Local 51, began passing out about a month ago, as Romensko reported earlier. The first installment contrasted $1 million rank-and-file employees have given up in the last three years against bonuses worth five times as much awarded to the top five executives over that same period.

Read the rest.

There’s more here from Jim Romenesko.

USA Today’s mandatory furloughs

It’s a common strategy today to enact pay cuts through so-called furloughs.

Gannett, America’s most rapacious paper chain, has adopted the practice also followed by MediaNews, California’s dominant chain, anchored by the Denver Post.

We’ve mentioned the furloughs before, but now they’ve caught some attention overseas.

From The Independent’s Enjoli Liston:

USA Today, America’s second-biggest newspaper, has asked most of its staff to take week off without pay to save money. The measures Continue reading

Chart of the day: Blood on the Newsroom Floor


From Reflections of a Newsosaur:

Blood on the Newsroom Floor: Death and numbers


Today’s report includes one newspaper closing, more layoffs, and a sale.

A Mississippi newspaper shuts down

Always sad to hear of the death of a community newspaper, and this time it’s a small town in Mississippi that loses what had been a community forum for more than a century.

From Melanie Dzwonchyk of ExploreHoward.com:

The Laurel Leader-Call. . .will cease publishing after its March 29 issue, its editors announced March 26.

In a story on the paper’s website, it was reported that publisher Mitchell Lynch advised the paper’s 18 employees of the decision Monday afternoon, and that he said subscribers who had paid for the paper in advance would be reimbursed.

>snip<

According to its website, the Laurel Leader-Call was first published in 1911 as the Laurel Daily Argus. It was later called the Laurel Daily Leader and became the Laurel Leader-Call in 1930. In 1999, the paper was purchased by a subsidiary of Community Newspaper Holdings Inc.

Last year, the Laurel Leader-Call reduced its publication from daily to four days a week.

Read the rest.

The numbers tell the tale in Philly

First, the Philadelphia Media Network has been sold, with the new owners paying $55 million for a consortium that includes both of the city’s metropolitan dailies, the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News.

The sale to a consortium of business folk headed by New Jersey Democratic Party honcho George Norcross comes two years after the previous owners, a group of hedge fund tycoons and other investors, paid $139 million for the papers. They in turn had bought it from a third group, which purchased the papers four years earlier for $515 million.

At that rate, we’ll be able to buy the papers with pocket change in another couple of years.

Whether or not the sale will be accompanied by the usual round of layoffs remains to be seen, given that the old owners had already announced layoffs to sweeten the pot for the new buyers,

And some more numbers

Blogger Robert Struckman, a Washington-based union activist, has our first set:

Mary Junck, CEO of Iowa-based Lee Enterprises, dragged the company into a financial mess until the company finally sought bankruptcy protection… and [last] week she got a $500,000 bonus! For steering the company through these tough economic times!

And on the  same day as news of Junck’s bonus hit the Web, 10 of the chain’s workers in Butte, Helena, Billings and Missoula have been laid off or accepted cheap buyouts–one week’s pay for every year worked.

>snip<

Lee’s stock has performed a stunning dive from a high monthly average of $48.98 in June of 2004 to a low of $.29 in February of 2009. Lately, it’s been hovering a dime or so over a dollar.

Meanwhile, over the past five years the company has slashed its staff and benefits across all of its papers.

One Lee employee put it best, likening the raw deal to being hit by an exploding “shit balloon.”

Read the rest.

Oh, and the chain’s CFO got a $250,000 bonus.

And Lee makes yet more layoffs

This time it’s the Post-Star in Glenn Falls, New York.

The story from Thom Randall of the Valley News in Elizabethtown, New York:

The Post-Star, the southern Adirondack region’s daily newspaper, has laid off one-third of its entire staff of news reporters, leaving people questioning their news coverage territory.

Calls placed to Post-Star Publisher Rick Emanuel and City Editor Bob Condon were not returned by Friday March 30. Managing Editor Ken Tingley was on vacation, according to his voicemail message.

Sources familiar with the Post-Star said the staff cuts were made Wednesday March 28.

As of Thursday March 29, the names of news reporters Thomas Dimopoulos, Jamie Munks and David Taube were removed from the Post Star’s online staff directory, which the day before listed nine news reporters’ names.

>snip<

Also absent from the company directory Thursday were the names of copy editor Christopher FitzGerald, photographer Aaron Eisenhauer and sportswriters Mary Albl and Larry Hall.

Reporters remaining at the Post-Star refused to talk this week about the staff cuts.

Read the rest.

News from another sector

Yep, this time it’s one of those glossy, gadget-filled men’s magazines that’s bringing out the journalism job chopper.

From Josh Constine of TechCrunch:

The Internet killed the magazine star. There’s been a major round of layoffs at Maxim magazine. Senior Editor Seth Porges is at least one employee who got the axe, according to our sources and confirmed by a recent update to his Twitter bio that now lists him as “EX-MAXIM”.

Update: We’ve confirmed there’s been six layoffs from the editors, web, and photo teams. The layoffs could be a response to declining magazine sales due to the fracturing of men’s attention caused by rise of the internet and social media. There’s just more places for men to look at gadgets, guns, and girls than there used to be.

Maxim is part of the Alpha Media Group which also own Stuff magazine. Alpha Media Group’s been in trouble for a while. Back in 2009 it had to shut down its music magazine Blender and fire multiple Maxim staff members including several editors.

Read the rest.

Blood on the Newsroom Floor: Carnage continues


Lots more newsroom gutting to report, and it’s only been six days since our last body count update.

And we’ve got television newsroom bloodletting, too.

More bodies to fall in Philly

With 45 bodies already hitting the newsroom floor earlier this month, Philadelphia’s daily newspapers are adding another 35 in months to come.

From David Gambacorta of the Philadelphia Daily News:

If misery does indeed love company, it would probably be right at home at Philadelphia Media Network Inc.

Managers of the company, which owns the Daily News, Inquirer, philly.com and SportsWeek, have proposed cutting 35 jobs within the next six months – on top of layoffs and buyouts that eliminated 45 jobs earlier this month.

The potential new round of cuts was detailed in a document, obtained yesterday by the Daily News, that outlined the terms of a potential sale of PMN by its current hedge-fund owners to an investor group now led by local businessmen Lewis Katz and George Norcross.

The letter of intent, dated March 20, from Katz and Norcross to Evercore Partners, which is managing the sale of the media company, puts the possible purchase price at $60 million.

According to the letter, the job cuts earlier this month cost PMN about $900,000 in severance.

The letter notes that the company’s senior managers explained in a presentation to the potential new owners last week that PMN would cut 35 additional jobs, which would cost about $200,000 in severance pay.

Read the rest.

More layoffs in Denver

The Denver Post, owned by MediaNews, the dominant publisher in California as well, is boosting its body count, but of the sixteen job cuts, only one is a journalist.

From the Denver Newspaper Guild:

On March 23, Denver Post management announced the elimination of 11 more positions.

Five metro home delivery districts will be eliminated resulting in the layoff of five district managers and five assistant district managers. The two-week window for volunteers in those positions to resign or retire with severance ends April 6

The effective dates of voluntary resignations or layoffs will be spread out. They will occur on April 23, May 21 and June 18 as the districts are eliminated.

The company also announced it is eliminating the Viva photographer position.

Bloomberg axes 35 TV newsies

The media empire owned by the mogul who also serves as mayor of somne city Back East is bringing out the chopping block.

From  of TV Newser:

TVNewser has learned Bloomberg TV has laid off up to 30 reporters, producers, associate producers, editors and other staffers this morning as the company shifts to a digital-centric newsroom. As TV employees are cut, Bloomberg plans to add 13 new positions and create a Digital Video Desk focused on moving video productions to web platforms, including tablets, smartphones and desktops. Among those let go, Cris Valerio, a San Francisco-based technology reporter and host of the weekly show “Venture,” which was canceled last year.

>snip<

Of the new jobs, to be posted soon, there are six new positions for digital producers and digital strategists, leaving a net loss of about 15 positions.

During the last staff cuts at Bloomberg in early 2009, more than 100 employees from the Radio and TV, including 45 at Bloomberg’s New York City headquarters, were laid off. Those cuts were overseen by then head of Bloomberg TV David Rhodes who is now president of CBS News.

Read the rest.

Uberconservative mag announces layoffs

Human Events is one of the old line publications of the Hard Right, and following their rock-ribbed Republican principles, they’re cutting jobs just because they can.

From Eddie Scarry of FishbowlDC:

Cathy Taylor is barely four months into her gig as the editor of Human Events and the conservative weekly is already facing a massive shakeup under her leadership.

Taylor recently terminated Tony Lee who spearheaded the publication’s election blog and also dropped Brian H. Darling, a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a regular columnist for Continue reading

Blood on the Newsroom Floor: Los Angeles, Denver


An update to yesterday’s post on Los Angeles Times layoffs and a new report on layoffs at the Denver Post, which is owned by the same company that controls the lion’s share of California newspaper circulation.

Layoffs in Denver could signal another round of downsizing to come here in the Golden State.

Los Angeles Times, bodies falling

From Lucas Shaw of The Wrap:

The L.A. Times, mired in its fourth year of bankruptcy, went through yet another round of newsroom cuts on Tuesday, leaving its editorial staff unnerved by continuing cutbacks and an uncertain future.

The elimination of 12 to 20 positions was announced to the newsroom in December, but Tuesday’s cuts hit more departments than originally expected. This is just the latest in a wave of departures that has plagued the Times over the past several years.

Numerous insiders have described morale at the Times as at an all-time low.

Some of that is due to layoffs, but some is also attributable to the lack of resolution in the Tribune Company’s bankruptcy case. A judge will hear the Tribune’s latest proposal for a reorganization plan in May.

On Tuesday, Craig Turner, the No. 2 editor in arts and entertainment and a Times veteran of more than 40 years, volunteered for a buyout.

Shari Roan, a health writer for more than 22 years at the Times, was let go.

Read the rest.

Kevin Roderick of LA Observed has more on Turner’s departure:

Craig Turner, currently the Arts and Entertainment editor, confirms that he stepped forward for a buyout and will be retiring from the Los Angeles Times. He has been with the paper almost 41 years, as a reporter at the United Nations and in Canada and elsewhere, as Metropolitan Editor for several years, and in other positions. “This place has been great to me and I love and admire the people here, but after nearly 41 years there are other things I want to do while I can,” Turner emails.

Read the rest.

And this from Matthew Debord of KPCC radio in Los Angeles:

Layoffs have become a fact of life at the LAT, whose parent, Tribune Co., is still in bankruptcy. What appears to be going on now is that the paper is chopping back on its features and special sections, concentrating instead on news, business, sports, and entertainment — the core coverage areas. Three stand-alone weekly section, for example, were recently rolled into one Saturday section.

This happened at the same time the LAT announced the introduction of a paywall.

Read the rest.

Denver Post wields the chopper

The Post, which esnl read religiously way back in the 1950s and early 1960s, is the flagship paper of MediaNews Group Inc., a chain that counts among its holdings most of the newspapers in the San Francisco Bay Area and many of those in the Los Angeles metropolitan region as well.

Layoffs in Denver could mean more in California.

From ColoradoPols:

More Layoffs Hit Declining Denver Post

That’s the word from our sources this morning–yesterday, responding to continuing declines in revenue, The Denver Post once again began laying off newsroom and editorial staff. We’ve learned that columnists Mike Littwin and Penny Parker were let go yesterday. The loss of Littwin in particular, one of the Denver Post’s best pickups from the ashes of the Rocky Mountain News, will greatly harm the landscape of political commentary in our state.

We’re told that the Post must cut some $500,000 in newsroom overhead, and that more layoffs are imminent throughout the organization. As soon as we have names, we’ll share them.

Read the rest.

More from Michael Roberts at West Word:

Earlier today, I reported that the Denver Post has laid off two of its most prominent staffers, Penny Parker and Mike Littwin; see our original post below. Shortly thereafter, I was able to reach Parker, who was blindsided by this unexpected move and still struggling to process it. From what she hears, though, more big changes at the paper could be on the way, and soon.

“Apparently, more is coming down today,” Parker says.

To put it mildly, Parker didn’t see the layoff coming. “Kick me in the head, seriously. I knew nothing, nothing. My poor, 33-year-old boss” — business editor Kristi Arellano — “had to tell me. I feel really bad for her. This is not what she signed on for.”

She adds that “I would have expected Greg Moore,” the Post’s editor, “to have called me. He didn’t, and I’m disappointed.”

Read the rest.

Blood on the Newsroom Floor: It’s flowing again


On today’s agenda: Major layoffs in two cities and the first signs of a cutbacks in a third that’s closer to home, plus the inevitable slashes at smaller publications and the death of one small newspaper chain.

One thing to note. While some of the numbers may seem small, the newsroom staffs are far smaller than just a few years ago, so the impacts will be disproportionately greater than the figures would first appear.

Chicago Tribune brings out the chopping block

The Tribune Co. Is still reeling from the $8.2 billion buyout by Sam Zell, which was funding on the backs on the workers through their Employee stock ownership plan.

Zell, who’s also Berkeley’s biggest private landlord, drove the chain into bankruptcy a year later, resulting in major cuts at its papers, including California’s leading daily, the Los Angeles Times.

This latest round of cuts follows the loss of ten newsroom staffers last month through buyouts. No word yet on any layoffs at the chain’s 23 television stations.

From Lynne Marek of Crain’s Chicago Business:

The Chicago Tribune cut about 15 editorial employees today as the media company continues to shrink its newsroom.

The employees dismissed included reporters, editors and managers, according to sources familiar with the layoffs. They follow an employee buyout last month and a round of staff reductions in July.

The paper, the biggest in the city and a unit of Chicago-based Tribune Co., is creating a leaner workforce to reduce costs and revive profits as it prepares to exit bankruptcy later this year under its new creditor-owners.

>snip<

“The Chicago Tribune does not publicly discuss internal personnel matters,” company spokesman Gary Weitman said. “Like most companies, the Tribune makes decisions about staff skills and composition based on customer needs and business conditions.”

Read the rest.

Layoffs begin today at Los Angeles Times

No idea yet how many will get the chop.

From Kevin Roderick of LA Observed:

The latest round of Los Angeles Times layoffs and other cuts began with at least one home phone call [Monday night]. Shari Roan, a health writer for the Times for 22 years, got the word that she’s on the list. She was a mainstay of the Health section that was recently eliminated.

Bad news in the City of Brotherly Love

Philadelphia’s metropolitan newspapers are on the auction block, and to sweeten the deal, layoffs are the order of the day.

From Mike Armstrong of the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Philadelphia Media Network Inc. will lay off 19 unionized workers in its three newsrooms – four full-timers and 15 part-timers – and 21 additional newsroom employees have been approved for voluntary buyouts.

The layoffs of reporters, copy editors, multimedia content producers, and others at The Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News, and Philly.com would occur March 31. Five nonunion employees from the three newsrooms, including three from The Inquirer, also were laid off, bringing the total number of jobs being lost to 45.

In a statement, PMN said the layoffs and buyouts were a response to “the unfortunate economic conditions that continue to impact” the newspaper industry.

>snip<

PMN spokesman Mark Block would not discuss details of the financial condition of the company, citing its status as a privately held corporation. “The kind of revenue we have been generating has not been enough to sustain the personnel we have,” he said.

Read the rest.

More from Maryclaire Dale of the Associated Press:

Philadelphia’s two largest newspapers will lose 40 more newsroom employees this month, prompting union leaders. . .to accuse management of bungling a tablet computer launch, censoring stories and deriding print newspapers as “legacy products.”

The losses are just the latest setback for staffers, who have gone through repeated rounds of cutbacks and might soon have their fifth owner in six years.

A group of local powerbrokers and philanthropists hopes to buy Philadelphia Media Network from the New York hedge funds that took control after a 2010 bankruptcy auction. The sale price has plummeted from $515 million in 2006 to $139 million in 2009 to perhaps less than $70 million this year.

The hedge funds installed former Newsweek.com executive Greg Osberg as publisher in late 2010. The guild attacked his leadership in a sharply worded memo Thursday.

Read the rest.

The Phily layoffs appear to be striking hard at the papers’ minority staff.

From Richard Prince of the Maynard Institute:

The National Association of Black Journalists promptly protested the departures of Sarah J. Glover, president of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists, and sportswriter John Mitchell.

“I am not entirely sure of the racial breakdown of the members but at leastSarah J. GloverSarah J. Glover three of those laid off and one of the volunteers who left only to be spared a layoff are journalists of color,” Dan Gross, Philadelphia Daily News reporter and president of the Newspaper Guild/Communications Workers of America Local 38010, told Journal-isms by email on Thursday.

Read the rest.

Alternative chain hacks away at journo staff

The whole notion of “alternative chain” is an oxymoron, a result of the relentless corporatization of the nation’s once free-wheeling and fiercely independent local alternatives to the corporate media of the 1960s and 1970s.

The latest round of cuts comes at the Creative Loafing chain — and how’s that for a corporate chain name?

From Rachel Kaufman of Media Jobs Daily:

Creative Loafing, the company that owns the Chicago Reader, City Paper, and Creative Loafing Atlanta, has announced cuts in staffing and pay at the three papers.

At CL Atlanta, four positions were let go. The paper is saying farewell Continue reading

Blood on the newsroom floor: And lots of it


The bodies are falling fast, as American journalism goes through another round of contractions. We’ve also got another closing of a non-profit, and allegations of censorship and of age discrimination in layoffs.

The Philadelphia toll: 37 journalists

We have two stories out of Philly, our first and last in today’s roundup.

Here’s the first bad news from the Newspaper Guild of Greater Philadelphia, dated 15 February:

Newsroom combination at Inquirer, Daily News, Philly.com to result in elimination of 37 positions.

Dear Guild member,

This afternoon Guild leaders met with Philadelphia Media Network officials including the editors of the Inquirer, Daily News and Philly.com to hear the company’s plans for “One Newsroom.”

These plans include the devastating reduction in force of 37 positions.

The company identified that its combined newsroom functions could result in layoffs in the following classifications: Reporters, Writing Reporters, Rewrite, News Artists, Photographers, Photo Printers, Copy Editors/Readers, Make-Up Persons, Desk Assistants, Cartoonists, Editorial Writers, Editorial Clerks and Philly.com Multi Media Content Producers.

Before any individuals would be targeted for layoff, the company is first instituting a Voluntary Separation Program. Details of the buyout package will be distributed soon by Human Resources. The more members who step up for voluntary buyouts, the less involuntary newsroom layoffs there will be.

The buyout window is open from Feb. 16, 2012 to Feb. 29, 2012. On March 1, 2012 PMN will notify the Guild of any members who have been targeted for layoff in any category. As per our contract layoffs in any category would be handled by seniority with the least senior person being first affected. In most cases, part-time employees would be laid-off before the dismissal of full-timers in their group.

The last day of work for either volunteers or those laid off would be March 31, 2012.

The company’s decision to decimate our already-shrunken ranks is hard to comprehend given the ever-competitive 24/7 nature of today’s media landscape.

However, PMN has the contractual right to reduce the work force, and the Guild will work to make sure any job eliminations are conducted in accordance with our Collective Bargaining Agreement.

If you plan to apply for the voluntary separation program, you are to do so through Human Resources, but please first contact Guild Executive Director Bill Ross at the Guild office 215-928-0118, cell 267-240-8540 or BRoss@local-10.com.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

In solidarity,

Dan Gross, President,
Bill Ross, Executive Director,
and the Executive Board of the Newspaper Guild/Communications Workers of America Local 38010

New Haven Register: 30+ press operators

From Victoria Sanchez of The New Journal, New Haven Connecticut:

1981. The New Haven Register moved from a small office on Orange and Audobon to 40 Sargent Drive, a former shirt factory. Busloads of people came to tour the new state-of-the-art Goss Metroliner printing presses. New Haven was the industry showroom. Rockwell International, the company that manufactured Goss Metroliners, featured the Register’s pressmen on the cover of its 1982 catalogue with the headline “Winning Team in New Haven.” In the picture, you can see the men’s reflections in the gleaming floors.

Today, the floors are black and slippery, covered in ink. According to the Register’s press manager, Frank Malicki, the custodians stopped cleaning the floors about three or four years ago, which is how he knew the Journal Register East Company (the Register’s corporate owner, known as the JRC) would close down the printing press. “How did I know? The same thing happened on Orange Street.” Thirty-odd jobs at the press will be outsourced to the Hartford Courant’s plant over the course of four weeks. The press’s last run will be on March 4. Malicki started working for the Register as a sixteen-year-old delivery boy in 1970. When I asked him about the future, he said, “I don’t know. I need a job.”

This closure is one more sign of the transition from print to digital media, which has thrown the traditional news industry into chaos. But the Register has been struggling for a long time. Since the Jackson brothers, Richard and Lionel, sold the newspaper in 1986, there have been three corporate takeovers, a bankruptcy filing, and dozens of layoffs. The 200,000-square-foot building at 40 Sargent Drive is now mostly empty. Last August, the trouble also affected editorial management. Longtime editor Jack Kramer, a thirty-year veteran, was replaced by Matt DeRienzo.

Read the rest.

Indianapolis Star: 6-8

This move results from one of the hottest trends in corporate journalism, consolidation of editing functions from several locations in one newsroom..

Stepping up the workload on a smaller number of editors looks good on a spreadsheet, but it transforms key decision to people with no ties to the community, adding yet more alyer of alienation between a troubled medium and its readership.

From Al Yates of the Indianapolis Newspaper Guild:

The Indianapolis Newspaper Guild has won pay raises for most of its workers but was unable to stop The Indianapolis Star’s plans for outsourcing, which could ship up to eight jobs out the state.

The Guild’s contract negotiating team reached a tentative agreement Thursday with representatives of The Indianapolis Star in a deal which must still be ratified in a vote by the Guild’s membership.

The agreement was the definition of a compromise.

In an industry still cutting jobs and cutting pay, the deal would award the Guild’s workers raises of 2 to 4 percent, with the highest raises going to some of the Guild’s lowest paid workers. But it was only a small step toward restoring the 10 percent pay cuts the Guild took two years ago.

Despite making it a focal point of the Guild’s “Save the Star” campaign, the Guild’s team found that outsourcing the page design work was an area where The Star was unyielding. We made a strong case — in leafletting efforts, a street protest, a media campaign and at the bargaining table — that this could damage the local news product. But it became clear that this was an edict from Gannett, The Star’s parent company, and that the quality of the product was a secondary consideration to saving money.

The Guild knew this was an uphill battle going in. We were told this was one we couldn’t win. But we felt it was worth trying. And if Gannett attempts future outsourcing in Indianapolis, they can be assured we will wage an even more ardent campaign to resist such an effort.

At present, The Star hasn’t specified exactly what pages will be designed in Louisville or how many journalists in Indianapolis will be displaced. The last estimate we were given was six to eight.

Read the rest.

Massachusetts massacre: 64 Wooster press operators

Another economic move even practiced by family owned papers is the outsourcing of printing. And when chains owns a number of papers in relatively close proximity, printing in one locale allows individual papers to shed one of their most cost-and-equipment-intensive functions.

From the Worcester Massachusetts  Telegram & Gazette:

The Telegram & Gazette has decided to shift most printing operations from its plant in Millbury to The Boston Globe’s facility in Dorchester in a cost-saving move that will cause 64 layoffs.

Though the T&G will be printed nearly 50 miles away from Central Continue reading

Blood on the newsroom floor: A job opening!


Paying a visit to JournalismJobs.com, the go-to website for ink-stained wretches in search of employment, we discovered a fascinating job opportunity:

Seeking an assignment editor to coordinate the article submission process and communications with correspondents for a news website focused on the Horn of Africa region. The website publishes in Somali, Arabic, Kiswahili and English.

The editor will screen and edit submissions for accuracy and objective reporting. Other tasks include Arabic and Somali copy-editing, researching local and regional media in the Horn of Africa region and identifying coverage angles.

The position requires strong familiarity with the Horn of Africa region, especially Somalia, and working experience in the region as a journalist.

The job requires excellent computer and communications skills. Strong Internet research skills in Arabic, Somali and English.

The applicant must have native fluency in Somali and strong spoken and written English. Additional knowledge of Arabic and/or Swahili preferred.

Bachelor’s degree and 5-8 years of experience required.

Must be able to work under pressure, using a variety of sources including news wires and the Internet. Some weekend work will be required. Some shifts might extend into the early evening. Must be flexible to be on call in case of breaking news.

Oh well. While we’ve got the experience, we lack the skills in Arabic, Swahili, and Somali.

But we were curious to learn just who might be offering such a fascinating job in one of the political and military hot spots in the world, given that most media are shutting down overseas bureaus.

So we clicked on the link, only to find ourselves on the website of General Dynamics Information Technology.

General effin’ Dynamics?

Here’s the opening line from the relevant Wikipedia entry:

General Dynamics Corporation (NYSE: GD) is a U.S. defense conglomerate formed by mergers and divestitures, and as of 2008 it is the fifth largest defense contractor in the world.

Well, we suppose it’s the next logical move in the collapse of the journalism biz.

Given that the Horn of Africa is a major source of revenue for defense contractors, what with all the military hardware and technology they supply to the Pentagon and America’s military allies in the region and the numerous services they supply in the realm of information technology to the country’s spook shops, why not go into the business of providing news coverage in the very profitable conflict zones?

And as a company that touts itself as a leader innovation, GD can take some pride in its founding role in the creating of the military/industrial/media complex.

And we bet they pay well too.

Maybe it’s time to start learning Swahili?