Category Archives: Blood on the Newsroom Floor

The latest news on news media layoffs and downsizings.

Blood on the newsroom floor. . .dying papers


John Oliver’s brilliant dissection of the problems facing America’s newspapers, the bedrock of the national press, finds confirmation in two charts from State of the News Media 2016, the latest annual report on the state of American journalism from the Pew Research Center.

First up, the bad news about the news business as reflected by the falling numbers of folks who pay to have the news deilvered to the front doorstep:

BLOG News circ
And then there’s this grim graphic on the vanishing American newspaper reporter, especially journalists who are women or belong non-Anglo ethnic groups:

BLOG News jobs

Chart of the day: Quicker way to kill newspapers


With aa growing number of newspapers now in the hands of investment bankers, it’s no surprise to discover that papers are hiving off their most lucrative holdings into separate companies.

By splitting print from television and radio, the profit electronic money spinoffs aren’t freighted down with the burden of having to carry their dying former partners, the subject of today’s Chart of the day, via the Pew Research Center:

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From Pew:

In the past two years, several media companies that own both print and broadcast properties have spun off their newspapers and other print products into separate publishing companies to isolate this troubled sector from their more profitable broadcast stations. And this strategy has largely paid off.

Gannett Co. Inc., Tribune Company, and E.W. Scripps Co., which together own more than 100 newspapers and more than 70 television stations, all made the decision in 2014 or 2015 to spin off their print properties into separate companies. An analysis of the spinoffs shows that the broadcasting components of the original companies (which also retained many digital properties) have mostly outperformed their publishing counterparts in terms of operating profit margins and stock prices.

Needless to say, the trend is bad new for folks who love the news, given that, as John Oliver recently and reasonably pointed out, its the newspapers that account for much of the news carried by the electronic media.

Oliver’s brilliant commentary aroused the ire of David Chavern, CEO of the Newspaper Association of America, the industry’s trade organization and lobby.

But then Chavern isn’t a newspaper sort at all. His last job as as COO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Blood on the newsroom floor. . .Another ax falls


The publisher controlling the greatest newspaper circulation in California is based out of Denver, where its flagship publication is the Denver Post.

And a story from Westword about the Post has to be sending chills down the spines of journalists at the chain’s California papers:

Last week, as we reported, the Denver Post announced the names of twenty employees who’d accepted buyout offers, including prominent personalities such as longtime TV columnist Joanne Ostrow and editorial page editor Vince Carroll.

This number fell short of the Post’s buyout goal of 26 members of the newsroom, and observers immediately feared that layoffs would be implemented to make up the difference.

And so it has come to pass.

According to the Denver Newspaper Guild, the Post has announced its intention to lay off three members of its newsroom by July 8. In addition, we’ve learned that numerous part-timers have also been let go in addition to three workers in the paper’s IT department.

The names of the full-time editorial staffers being let go is unofficial at this point, but Morgan Dzakowic, a sports writer and digital producer, confirms that she’s received a termination notice. She places the blame for the buyouts and layoffs at the doorstep of Alden Global Capital, the hedge fund that controls the Post’s owner, Digital First Media.

“They’re basically milking the Denver Post for all it’s worth,” Dzakowic says. “The Post is extremely profitable, but these corporate people are gutting the paper — and there are a lot of talented people in the building.”

If the ax is falling in Denver, can blows in Oakland, San Jose, Marin County, Los Angeles, Yolo County. . .and more be far behind?

Blood on the newsroom floor. . .faith edition


Or rather lack of faith.

From Gallup, the latest grim news about the American disillusionment with their newspapers:

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From Gallup:

The 20% of Americans who are confident in newspapers as a U.S. institution hit an all-time low this year, marking the 10th consecutive year that more Americans express little or no, rather than high, confidence in the institution. The percentage of Americans expressing “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in newspapers has been dwindling since 2000, and the percentage expressing “very little” or “none” finally eclipsed it in 2007. The percentage with low confidence has only expanded since, tying a previous high of 36%.

One in five U.S. adults now say they have a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in newspapers — the all-time low for newspapers in Gallup’s trend dating to 1973. An additional 42% of U.S. adults say they have “some” confidence, meaning that the institution still sparks at least a measure of confidence in a majority of Americans.

However, the days when more than twice as many Americans expressed high rather than low confidence in newspapers are long gone. While this was common from the inception of Gallup’s confidence in institutions trend through 1990, it has only been achieved once since — in 2002, during the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks when Americans rallied around most major U.S. institutions.

Blood on the newsroom floor, pension edition


From the San Diego Reader, some very bad news for folks who retired from the San Diego Union Tribune as well as those planning to hang it all up any time soon:

The San Diego Union-Tribune‘s pension/retirement deficit rose to $96.2 million at year-end 2015, according to the parent Tribune Publishing’s 10-K annual report to the Securities and Exchange Commission. The deficit was $85.4 million in May of 2015, when Tribune Publishing bought the U-T.

Tribune Publishing (which is changing its name to “tronc” — with a lower case t — later this month) lists the pension deficit among risk factors that potential investors should consider before buying the stock.

The deficits of other Tribune Publishing newspapers are not listed as risk factors in the document.

The numbers are alarming. As of yearend 2015, the amount the company owes over time to employees and former employees is $235.6 million. But the value of the pension plan’s assets is just $139.4 million. Tribune Publishing contributed only $3 million to the fund last year, according to the filing.

The return on the plan’s assets was minus $10.2 million last year.The company paid out $9.9 million in benefits, according to the document filed with the securities agency.

Blood on the newsroom floor: Layoffs, a ban


UPDATED, after the jump. . .

Two major developments today.

First, the New York Times announced major layoffs in Paris as emphasis shifts from print to digital, with job losses concentrated in printing and editing. And then there’s the resignation of a Nevada journalist specializing in casino reporting after his boss barred him from reporting on the paper’s owner, a thuggish Right-winger and GOP megadonor who just happens to be the state’s leading casino owner.

The Paris layoffs affect production of the International New York Times/International Herald-Tribune.

Here’s a key section of the memo sent to staff announcing the cuts, via media blogger Jim Romenesko:

Readers today, particularly our highly traveled international readers, have different needs and expectations of print publications than even a few years ago. Our goal with this proposed redesign is to increase the breadth and depth of analysis, opinion and other coverage on topics that are most meaningful and pertinent to international audiences.

Another goal of the proposal is to simplify our production process and enable us to produce the paper far more efficiently than we do today, a step that is critical to its financial viability. Without these proposed changes, we do not believe that an international print New York Times is sustainable over the long term.

Stephen Dunbar-Johnson and Joe Kahn, who are leading our international efforts and overseeing the proposed redesign, will share more details with our colleagues at the INYT, but the proposal we announced today would result in the closing of the editing and pre-press print production operation in Paris, with those responsibilities moving to Hong Kong and New York.

France remains a vital market for us and we will maintain a robust news bureau in Paris as well as a core international advertising office there.

We regret that the proposal includes the elimination of jobs in Paris and we want to express our appreciation to colleagues – past and present – who through their hard work, have contributed to maintaining a tradition of excellence in global journalism at the IHT and INYT.

We believe that the proposal we have put forth today is necessary to sustain our global journalistic mission and best serve our valued international print readers and advertisers well into the future

Next, and more troubling, is the resignation of Nevada’s most able journalist covering the casino beat.

John L. Smith has worked at the Las Vegas Review-Journal for decades, covering the casino industry and its often shady players.

The Review-Journal was where we landed our first job on a daily newspaper at the ripe old age of 19 covering, among other things, racial discrimination in the city’s gaming palaces, stories for which we won the state’s highest journalism award, one Smith himself would win a couple of decades later.

The handwriting was on the wall for Smith last year when the city’s biggest casino owner, Sheldon Adelson, bought the paper, in part, we suspect, because it was the only way he could shut Smith up.

And now it’s over.

There’s lots more, after the jump. . . Continue reading

SF Bay Area papers eliminating critical editors


Back when esnl got his start in the newspaper game, our stories were subjected to at least three levels of editing, sometimes more depending on the size of the newspaper.

The first level came from the supervising or assigning editor, usually a deputy city editor. The story then went to the city editor, then to the copy desk, where the story was checked for grammar, style, typos, and continuity problems by a copy editor. From there it went to the slot man, the final check in the editing process, who examined the story for content and placement.

If the story was sufficiently significant, the vetting might also include the managing editor and his boss [all the editors of that level were male at the papers where we worked], plus a lawyer if any legal issues were raised. Then, after the story was set in type, a proofreader gave it the final once-over for typos and dropped lines of type.

That’s why you rarely if ever saw misspelled words, misattributions, incorrect tiles, and so much more.

But with the waves of downsizings we’ve reported over the years, typos flourish, facts go astray, and stories have grown choppier — and so much more.

And now the Bay Area News Group [BANG], the company that owns almost all the newspapers in the San Francisco Bay area, is getting rid of the last vestiges of editorial review.

Here’s the memo staff members received today, via Romenesko:

From: James Robinson
Date: Apr 22, 2016 6:02 AM
Subject: Some changes to our editing and production processes
To: &BANG News All

We’re launching a series of changes to the assigning and copy editing process in an attempt to manage a planned loss of approximately 11 FTEs. We are choosing this course, as many papers have across the country, rather than cutting more deeply into the ranks of content producers or neglecting our digital needs.

The bottom line is that we will be eliminating a layer of valuable editing across most of the copy desk — what is known in desk parlance as the rim. The result:

  • Staff stories that go inside sections will not be copy-edited. The assigning editor will be the only read. (In sports, late stories that do not go through an assigning editor will continue to be read on the desk, once.) Stories for our East Bay weeklies will not be copy-edited.
  • Staff stories for section covers will receive one read on the desk rather than the current two.
  • Proofreading will be reduced. This is going to place a new level of responsibility on reporters and, especially, assigning editors. Many of the ways in which the desk bails us out — often without us noticing — will disappear. That will mean:
  • All assigning editors must run Tansa on stories before moving them to the desk, and all proper names will have to be cq’ed. Grammar mistakes that make it through an assigning editor are highly likely to appear in print.
  • Reporters and editors will need to be more familiar with AP and BANG style.
  • Budgetlines will need to include accurate deadlines and lengths. Desk folk who receive overly long stories will not have time to redo page designs; they will be instructed to cut from the end (on some occasions, early notice to the desk that a story is running long may avoid this fate). When deadlines are blown, the desk may need to grab a web version of the story and move on.

There’s lots more, after the jump. . .

Continue reading