Category Archives: Blood on the Newsroom Floor

The latest news on news media layoffs and downsizings.

Chart of the day II: Watchdogs into lapdogs

From The American Journalist in the Digital Age [PDF], a survey of American journalists by the Indiana University School of Journalism, evidence of a disturbing trend among the national press corps. Most worrying to esnl is the first, item, showing a growing reluctance of the American press corps to use leaked documents. Without just such documents, Americans would’ve never learned about the sordid background and conduct of America’s war in Vietnam as revealed by the Pentagon Papers, nor of the massive extent of American electronic surveillance disclosed by Edward Snowden:

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Among other findings from the survey:

  • Most see journalism going in “wrong direction.” Six in 10 journalists (59.7 percent) say that journalism in the United States is going in the wrong direction.
  • Job satisfaction drops further. Job satisfaction dropped from 33.3 percent of journalists who said they were “very satisfied” with their job in 2002, to 23.3 percent who said so in 2013. This trend continues the decline in job satisfaction that was observed between 1971 and 1992 but was interrupted with a positive bounce in 2002.
  • Perceived job autonomy also drops. The survey findings since 1982 document a continuing erosion of perceived professional autonomy in the nation’s newsrooms. While a majority (60 percent) of journalists said they had “almost complete freedom” in selecting their stories in 1971 and 1982, only a third (33.6 percent) said so in 2013.
  • Gender pay gap persists. Median income has climbed to about $50,000 in 2012, up 12.9 percent since 2002. This increase was less than half of the combined inflation rate of 29.5 percent during this decade (2001-12). Women’s salaries still trail those of men overall, but not among journalists with less than five years’ experience.

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:

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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:

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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

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.


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.

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