Category Archives: Blood on the Newsroom Floor

The latest news on news media layoffs and downsizings.

Three cheers for journalist Scott Bujnak!


Class war comes to othe newsroom, via Romenesko:

On April 7, I reported that Lee Enterprises CEO Mary Junck received a $700,000 bonus for simply refinancing the newspaper chain’s debt.

The news disgusted longtime St. Louis Post-Dispatch carpenter Scott Bujnak.

“That was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” he says.

Bujnak, 56, went into publisher Ray Farris‘s office last Wednesday and quit after 18 years at the Lee-owned daily.

Columnist Bill McClellan writes:

He told his boss he was through and explained why. What’s the point of saving nickels and dimes when the big boss gets a $700,000 bonus? Word spread quickly. “He did what?” “Wow.”

How many people at how many companies have daydreamed about doing the same thing?

Bujnak apparently doesn’t regret quitting, even without another job lined up. “I have a smile on my face you can’t wipe off,” he tells McClellan.

The columnist points out:

Workers have suffered while the big bosses have prospered. Pensions were long ago frozen. Mandatory unpaid furloughs were introduced. Layoffs were the worst. Families were ravaged. Yet, it was the small things that got to Bujnak. Mixing paints, cannibalizing chairs. He started resenting saving the company money.

Especially when people like CEO Junck were regularly getting big bonuses. (She also got a bonus of $500,000 in March of 2012 – again for simply refinancing Lee’s debt.)

Read the rest.

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.