Category Archives: Blood on the Newsroom Floor

The latest news on news media layoffs and downsizings.

Blood on the newsroom floor. . .a building lost

This time it’s the newsroom itself that’s the latest victim of the ongoing radical downsizing of the American mainstream media.

From the Los Angeles Times:

The Los Angeles Times building in downtown Los Angeles has sold to a Canadian developer, paving the way for the redevelopment of a historic property the paper has called home since 1935, according to a person familiar with the deal who was not authorized to discuss it publicly.

Onni Group of Vancouver has explored plans to turn the property at 202 W. 1st St. into a collection of creative offices and retail and residential units.

The Times reported in June that Onni had signed an agreement to buy the building, but the deal with Tribune Media officially closed Monday night, the source said.

Tribune Media in Chicago declined to comment. An executive at Onni Group did not return messages seeking comment.

Terms of the sale were not available.

The Times building is an icon of Art Deco architecture, designed by Gordon Kauffman and opened in 1935.

Perhaps the building’s most impressive feature is it’s lobby, a testimony to the sense of exuberant power that once marked America’s leading metropolitan papers.

The Los Angeles Times building lobby, a testimony to the global ambitions of the paper's global ambitions under the reign of its founders. Via Wikipedia.

The Los Angeles Times building lobby, a testimony to the global ambitions of the paper’s global ambitions under the reign of its founders. Via Wikipedia.

The newspaper has been diminished in recent years, most notably under the brief reign of Sam Zell [previously], the self-styled “grave dancer,” and one of America’s most ruthless landlords.

Zell gutted the paper’s pension fund, money he looted to bankroll his takeover, a short, brief reign marked by mass layoffs and reportorial rage.

The sale of the building  trend across the country, as headquarters buildings are sold off to buttress faltering bottom lines.

Blood on the newsroom floor. . .a body count

And note the sheer idiocy of that corporate statement.

From the Poynter Foundation:

Less than three months after acquiring The Bergen Record, the (Passaic County) Herald News and other assets of North Jersey Media Group, Gannett is trimming the newspapers’ headcount dramatically.

In an unbylined story that was skewered on Twitter for trying to put a positive spin on the news, North Jersey Media Group announced that more than 200 employees would be laid off from sales and news departments in mid-November as part of a “bold, ambitious vision to make North Jersey Media Group even more competitive.”

A source in the company told Poynter Wednesday afternoon that employees will discuss the decision at an off-site meeting at a banquet hall in Paramus, New Jersey, about 20 minutes away from the Record’s newsroom.

Tom Donovan, Northeast Regional President of Gannett East Group, said the reorganization will “position us to remain that content and advertising leader” in a statement to Poynter. (Disclosure: Poynter has a training partnership with Gannett.)

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:

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

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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.