Another roundup on the slow-motion implosion of the American newsroom, this time starting in Southern California, where layoffs are continuing at the West Coast’s leading newspaper, the Los Angeles Times.
Mark Lacter at LA Observed notes some of the bigger names involved in the latest round of cutbacks at the paper owned by real estate developer — and Berkeley’s biggest private sector landlord — Sam Zell.
NBA writer Mark Heisler is out, according to a source, as are other familiar bylines. I’ve heard a few names, as has Kevin, and we’re trying to sort it out. But clearly this is a big round of staff cuts, in number as well as stature. Farewell notes are already going around.
*Two more names: Sports columnist Jerry Crowe and assistant business editor Sharon Bernstein.
**Two more: columnist Tim Rutten, who had been at the paper for 40 years, and Margot Roosevelt, who has covered environmental matters for many years.
I’m told that this round of layoffs will not be very big – perhaps a dozen or so on the news side. Disappointing ad revenues are apparently behind the cuts.
More on the L.A. Times layoffs here, including the sad story of the reporter notified of her job loss by email when she was 150 miles north of the Arctic Circle.
We should add that the paper has made at least one six-figure-salary reporting hire, taking back a well-respected reporter, or so we are told by a friend in the know.
The reason for the Times cutbacks? A decline in those big display ads studios used to buy to tout their latest feature films, reports Nikke Finke of Deadline Hollywood:
The Los Angeles Times began another round of buyouts and layoffs extending into August. And all because of what internal sources say is a dramatic shortfall in movie advertising revenue. “Film advertising is down -25% under the projections for this time of year. Display advertising generally is way down at the paper, but the movie ads have declined the most and that’s important because film is the LA Times’s largest advertising category,” an insider tells me. “In general the movie industry is advertising less in newspapers, but the studios seem especially averse to advertising in the diminished Calendar section which drove out most of the veterans and brought in all these kids with zero insight into Hollywood.” No movie staffers were included in today’s layoffs even if higher-paid journalists were targeted and Calendar has several of the highest paid in its employ. But if the current trend keeps on, who knows?
Finke writes that studios have cut back on newspaper ads because they’re mostly seen buy an audience one ad buyer called “older and elitist.”
And news from closer to home
From the San Francisco Peninsula Press Club comes word that one of the Bay Area’s leading independents has slashed its staff:
The San Francisco alt-weekly Bay Guardian has laid off three of its editorial staffers — about a third of its staff, acceding to reports from rivals SFGate and the SF Weekly.
The SF Weekly says that among those who lost their jobs was veteran reporter Sarah Phelan.
The cuts come just months after the Guardian received an out-of-court settlement from the SF Weekly. The Guardian, owned by Bruce Brugmann, won a $21 million verdict from a jury that found the SFWeekly sold ads at below the cost of production in order to take market share, an illegal practice under state and federal law. The SF Weekly and its parent company, Village Voice Media, was unsuccessful in appealing the case. The amount of the settlement has not been disclosed.
Editor Tim Redmond told SFGate: “Like a lot of newspapers and media companies, we’ve had to do some cutbacks … We’re facing challenges and have to make sure our revenue and expenses are in line. We’re looking forward to a future with, you know, changes in the publishing model. We’re looking to make sure our future is secure.”
While one paper is downsizing, another, new online news source will have a unionied workforce, reports Pacific Media Workers Guild organizer Sari Gelzer:
Journalists at the nonprofit news website The Bay Citizen have voted to affiliate with the Pacific Media Workers Guild, Local 39521 of The Newspaper Guild-Communications Workers of America.
“We believe The Bay Citizen, as one of the pioneering exponents of new civic journalism, should also be a leading example in the area of workplace democracy,” The Bay Citizen’s editorial staff wrote in a letter to TBC President and CEO Lisa Frazier ahead of filing cards with the National Labor Relations Board.
The majority of the organization’s editorial staff signed union cards seeking to be represented by the Guild on May 26th, the one-year anniversary of The Bay Citizen’s launch. Voting was conducted June 27 at The Bay Citizen’s San Francisco headquarters and by mail-in ballot. NLRB officials counted the votes on Tuesday, July 12.
And a disturbing consolidation trend continues
One of our greatest concerns about the future of American newspapering is the growing trend among chain-owned to delocalize editing, which, as we’ve noted before, deprives both reporters and readers of editors who know the communities that are the subjects of the stories they’re editing.
Here in California, the trend first appeared among the papers owned by Dean Singleton’s Media News, the company which now controls the state’s largest single bloc of newspaper circulation.
Here in the Bay Area, the company owns most of the daily circulation, with papers ranging from the Marin Independent Journal on the north to the the San Jose Mercury News in the south, and ranging east to Fairfield and Vallejo.
And now Sam Zell’s Tribune Co. has become the latest to pile on to the delocalized editing bandwagon, as staffer Robert Channick reports for the Zell-owned Chicago Tribune:
When the Hartford Courant lands in driveways this fall, it will look much as it has for years. Local news, sports, business and features, interspersed with photos and ads — a familiar daily snapshot of history unfolding.
But the nation’s oldest newspaper, a local institution since Connecticut was a colony, will be different. Much of the Tribune Co.-owned Courant will be made in Chicago.
Joining the struggling industry’s trend toward centralization, the Hartford paper announced plans this month to outsource all copy editing and design to Tribune Co.’s Chicago Tribune, eliminating 19 newsroom positions — about half related to the outsourcing — according to Rich Graziano, the Courant’s CEO and publisher.
“It was a meaningful and significant cost savings,” Graziano said.
“Most companies are either doing it or looking at it,” said Ken Doctor, a media industry analyst and author of “Newsonomics.”
Toiling in relative anonymity, copy editors and others in similar positions do everything from fact-checking and tightening prose to writing headlines and photo captions and designing pages. Handling local stories, along with national and international copy, the role requires broad knowledge and an attention to detail.
Centralizing the process, while efficient, may be problematic for locally-generated stories, Doctor said.
“You have the real concern about how much accuracy, how much local knowledge, how much institutional knowledge you’re losing in the craft of copy editing,” Doctor said.
And BBC reporters stage a strike
Angry at major layoffs at one of the world’s leading broadcasters, BBC journalists staged a walkout today, as Agence France Presse reports:
BBC journalists began a second 24-hour strike on Monday in a row over job losses, threatening disruption to some of the British broadcaster’s flagship programmes.
Members of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) are angry at around 100 compulsory job losses at the World Service and Monitoring division, which monitors mass media worldwide, as the broadcaster seeks to make huge savings.
NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said she expected the strike, which began at midnight, to be “very solidly supported” by the organisation’s 3,000 union members.
The World Service announced in January it was cutting 650 jobs as the government withdrew funding as part of an austerity drive, under which the BBC is seeking to cut its budget by 16 percent in the next few years.
And, finally, some really painful journo news
At least for the weathercaster who’s the subject of a report by Phil Willon and Andrew Blankstein of the Los Angeles Times:
KABC-TV reporter Leanne Suter was released from the hospital after being struck with a pellet from a BB gun Saturday while doing a live weather report in Fontana.
The station said Suter was treated for a wound but is expected to make a full recovery.
“We are happy to report she is now doing fine,” KABC Channel 7 anchor John Hartung reported.
Two teenagers were arrested in connection with the shooting, Fontana police said. Suter was taken to a hospital after being hit in the hand with a BB round, Lt. Mark Weissmann said. She was standing on Summit Avenue near the 15 Freeway when she was shot about 6 p.m., Weissmann said.