Category Archives: Blood on the Newsroom Floor

The latest news on news media layoffs and downsizings.

Blood on the newsroom floor. . .Orange County


The Santa Ana Register,  later renamed the Orange County Register, was California’s preeminent voice of Libertarian conservatism when esnl moved to California back in late 1967 [God, was it really almost a half-century ago?].

The paper’s editorial pages could be relied on to promote the John Birch Society party line, while the news pages harbored some good journalists who secretly loathed the editorials.

But the paper was beset by the same woes afflicting all other forms of dead tree journalism, plus some ownership familial infighting.

Finally, the paper went up for grabs, and the latest sale, to the same company that owns most of the once-independent newspapers in California’s two most populous regions [the Los Angeles County basin and the San Francisco Bay Area], was greeted with trepidation by folks who have watched what happens when Media News took over other California newspapers.

Massive downsizing invariably followed, and in the Bay Area, Media News has folded its papers into amorphous blobs while gutting staffs.

And just as we expected comes word that within days of the sale of the Orange County paper [the Riverside Press-Enterprise was also part of the deal], Media News took out the ax and began chopping.

From the Los Angeles Times:

Rob Curley, editor of the Orange County Register, confirmed on Thursday that it would be his last day leading the paper.

At the conclusion of a bankruptcy auction just over a week ago, a judge in Santa Ana approved the sale of the Register and the Riverside Press-Enterprise — which had been owned by Freedom Communications — to Digital First Media.

Curley was among some 70-plus Register employees who, according to sources who spoke on condition of anonymity when discussing the paper, were being targeted for layoffs. He joined Freedom in 2012 and, before becoming editor, served as deputy editor of local news, leading a relaunch of the Register’s 22 community newspapers.

Meanwhile, the wacko beliefs once largely restricted to the editorial pages of the Register and a few other papers across the country are now the prevailing orthodoxy of the Republican Party.

Bay Area daily newspapers bite the dust


After 140 years of publishing as a daily newspaper, the Oakland Tribune — a newspaper which has seen its reporting staff downsized repeatedly from a 1960’s era 125 to less than a handful — will become a once-a-week supplement to the new East Bay Times, which will also include the dominant Contra Costa Times, the Fremont Argus, and the Hayward Daily Review, with the latter two also ending their runs as daily newspapers and appearing as once-a-week simulacra.

The Bay Area News Group, the umbrella organization for the San Francisco region newspapers of the MediaNews Group, has witnessed dramatic downsizings over the past two decades, and the new consolidation will be accompanied by yet more layoffs.

We haven’t heard if similar moves are afoot in Southern California, where MediaNews operates as the Los Angeles News Group.

It’s yet another sad day for the ink-stained wretches of the Gutenberg era.

Chart of the day: More signs of the death of print


Bad news for newspaper in a new survey [PDF] from the Pew Research Center, which reveals that print media are far down on the list of news sources folks of all ages turn to for information about the current presidential election circus. And as might be expected, the last of the flagging support for print comes from the Boomers, and the news is especially bleak for local newspapers.

Indeed, it’s arguable that print shouldn’t even be labelled as a mainstream medium:

BLOG News

Blood on the newsroom floor. . .


Bad news just keeps coming for stalwarts of the Fourth Estate north of the border.

First, CBC News covers the latest layoffs, this time in Halifax, Nova Scotia:

Eighteen Chronicle Herald staff have received layoff notices on the first day of their strike [Friday] at Canada’s oldest independently owned newspaper.

Frank Campbell, vice president of the Halifax Typographical Union, said Saturday layoff notices had been issued to four photographers, 12 editors and two page technicians. He said the union’s lawyers are analyzing the legality of the move.

“It wasn’t on our radar that people would receive layoff notices while we were on strike,” Campbell told CBC News.

And from the Toronto Globe and Mail, specifics on layoffs by Canada’s media giant:

The country’s largest newspaper chain, Postmedia Network Canada Corp., is merging once-competing newsrooms and cutting about 90 staff as it tries to cope with declining revenue and a heavy debt load.

In Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Ottawa – cities where Postmedia owns two daily papers – editorial staff will be joined together to work under one senior editor, filing stories and images to both publications. But the company is not closing any newspapers, promising to continue publishing two in each city, albeit with less distinctive content and fewer rival reporters working local beats.

Last April, as Postmedia closed a deal to buy 175 newspapers and digital publications from Quebecor Inc., executives from the company were promising that the newly acquired Calgary Sun, Edmonton Sun and Ottawa Sun would remain competitors with the Calgary Herald, Edmonton Journal and Ottawa Citizen. The consolidation of written media that resulted was unprecedented for Canada, but Postmedia stressed that newsrooms would stay separate, pointing to its existing control of both the Vancouver Province and Vancouver Sun.

And some interpretation from a rabble.ca post headlined “Right-wing newspapers take over media markets in four more cities”:

Recent developments surrounding Postmedia’s layoffs and restructuring are particularly unsettling. Postmedia, which is largely U.S. owned, prints both the National Post and the Toronto Sun separately. But in its restructured form, newspapers like the Edmonton Journal and the Edmonton Sun will have one editor with roots in the Sun news side. Good newsrooms with balanced editorial policies will likely be replaced with right-wing automatons like Lorne Motley, the figure responsible for transforming the Calgary Herald into an attack dog for the oil and gas industry.

This same structure will be replicated across Postmedia-owned newspapers in Calgary, Ottawa and Vancouver. The Province, the Citizen, the Herald, the Journal will now be in essence the Sun, Sun, Sun and Sun, respectively.

None of these corporate-backed media chains were ever known for their progressive views. But it’s bad news for democracy when Canadian news ownership is even more concentrated than in 2012: when Canada ranked first place in the G8 for concentrated media ownership.

Finally, on this side of the border, some specifics on a notable shutdown of a cable news network from TVNewser:

Winding down an entire cable news network takes time–and plenty of paperwork. When Al Jazeera America announced earlier this month it would end operations in April, hundreds of employees learned they would be losing their jobs.

>snip<

The mechanics of laying off a workforce estimated at around 700 people across twelve U.S. bureaus includes government-mandated reports that must be give at least 60 days notice of layoffs. The first of those reports was filed in New York State the day of AJAM’s January announcement on January 13, giving 90 days notice.

The New York Department of Labor filing discloses that 197 employees will be laid off, beginning as early as April 13. In the filing, Al Jazeera lists the reason for the layoffs as a “plant closing.”

And finally, via Mediaite, terrorism in the newsroom:

The backlash is mounting against Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer for a horrible joke she attempted to make recently at a companywide meeting, and now many in her presumably deflated workforce fear for their jobs.

Mayer reportedly told the company that there will be “no layoffs… this week,” and although her comments were intended to be humorous, many who call the tech giant home are left wondering about their employment status within the company. “This is the reason employee morale is so low,” said one employee to the New York Post, who wished to remain anonymous out of fear of retribution.

According to reports, the comment in question from the CEO came at a January 8 meeting known as the “Friday FYI”. Mayer has served as President and CEO of Yahoo since June 2012, though many have questioned the direction of the company under her leadership.

Blood on the newsroom floor. . .


Most of the action is happening north of the border, but there’s one especially notable set of layoffs south of the line, and we’ll begin with that one, via PetaPixel:

There’s more bad news in the photojournalism industry today: Sports Illustrated has laid off Director of Photography Brad Smith, Photo Editor Claire Bourgeois, and Photo Director John Blackmar. This comes almost exactly 1 year after the magazine laid off its entire roster of staff photographers.

Smith, who joined SI in 2013 after spending 6 years as the senior sports photography editor at the New York Times, confirmed the layoff news to PetaPixel in an email today.

The layoff comes as Sports Illustrated’s parent company, Time Inc, continues to try to convince photographers to sign its controversial photography contract. The timing is also curious due to the fact that one of the biggest annual sporting events in the US, the Super Bowl, is just around the corner.

The layoff of the SI photo team is breathtaking, given the magazine’s once prominent role as a home for some of the country’s best photographic talent.

A decade ago one of our oldest friends, a photographer whose work has graced the pages of the nation’s leading newspapers and magazines, predicted the demise of his craft, given the vast proliferation of digital cameras capable of executing by program the skills a film photographer took years to hone.

Still, the news is tragic, and marks the passage of an age.

Now to go north of the border, first with CBC News:

Newspaper chain Postmedia today announced sweeping changes to its operations, cutting 90 jobs across the country and merging newsrooms from multiple newspapers into one each in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Ottawa.

“We will continue to operate separate brands in each of these markets,” Postmedia CEO and president Paul Godfrey said in a memo to staff Tuesday afternoon. “What is changing is how we produce these products.”

The chain says two papers in those markets — the Sun and Province in Vancouver, the Herald and Sun in Calgary, the Journal and Sun in Edmonton, and the Citizen and Sun in Ottawa — will share newsroom resources, but continue to operate.

“Each city will have one newsroom,” Godfrey said, and the two papers will be run by one editorial team.

And still more layoffs, this time from Canadaland :

Thirteen Toronto Star employees have been laid off today, CANADALAND has confirmed. In a memo to staff, editor-in-chief Michael Cooke said ten tablet employees and three digital employees will be leaving the company in light of the Star closing its print centre. The Star will also be outsourcing customer service and administration work, which will affect about 15 staff according to an email send to the newsroom by publisher John Cruickshank.

Blood on the newsroom floor. . .


Time to catch up on the latest grim news from the Fourth Estate.

First, the big news, and this time it’s television where the downsizing axe is falling.

From Al Jazeera:

Al Jazeera America will shutter its cable TV and digital operations by April 30 of this year, the company announced Wednesday. The decision by the AJAM board was “driven by the fact that our business model is simply not sustainable in light of the economic challenges in the U.S. media marketplace,” said AJAM CEO Al Anstey.

“I know the closure of AJAM will be a massive disappointment for everyone here who has worked tirelessly for our long-term future,” Anstey wrote in an email addressed to all the company’s employees. The decision was no reflection on the work of that staff, he said. “Our commitment to great journalism is unrivaled. We have increasingly set ourselves apart from all the rest. And you are the most talented team any organization could wish for.”

The announcement of AJAM’s closure coincides with a decision by its global parent company to commit to a significant expansion of its worldwide digital operations into the U.S. market.

Next up, a notable magazine sale is in the works, and layoffs are inevitable.

From the New York Times:

“If you really care about an institution and want to make it strong for the ages, you don’t walk out. You roll up your sleeves, you redouble your commitment to those ideals in a changing world, and you fight.”

That’s what Chris Hughes, the 32-year-old billionaire Facebook co-founder, wrote just a little more than a year ago about The New Republic, the century-old magazine he acquired in 2012. On Monday, Mr. Hughes, said, in effect, “Nah, forget about all of that.”

He put the magazine up for sale, throwing up his hands in frustration. “I underestimated the difficulty of transitioning an old and traditional institution into a digital media company in today’s quickly evolving climate,” he wrote.

And layoffs are on the way at a major metropolitan newspaper, reports Capital New York:

After a painful fall in which the Daily News was recovering from a downsizing that claimed the jobs of numerous longtime newsroom employees, has the tabloid been hit with cuts yet again?

Three sources familiar with the matter told POLITICO as much on Friday.

The details are fuzzy and a spokeswoman for the News declined to comment.

But the sources said the cuts appeared to be concentrated within a digital unit working out of the paper’s printing plant and administrative headquarters in Jersey City, where the News had assembled a team of around 30 or so web writers to produce traffic-friendly articles for nydailynews.com.

And a magazine downsizes, via the Boston Business Journal:

Boston magazine has cut a number of positions as part of a restructuring at its parent company.

The glossy publication, best known for its Best of Boston rankings and long-form features on the city’s power players, has cut senior editor S.I. Rosenbaum, one of three positions to be eliminated today [5 January].

>snip<

“Very sadly, three members of our Boston magazine team lost their jobs today as a result of our restructuring,” said Metrocorp president Rick Waechter in an email. “It hurts to lose dedicated team members and this was no exception. We wish them the best.”

Sheldon Adelson stirs up a journalistic free-for-all


Since this is an intimately personal essay, I’ll resort to first person [maybe someday we’ll offer a post on why we typically opt for the third person].

My very first job at a daily newspaper was as a cub reporter for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, then and now the largest paper in the Silver State.

I was 19 when I started, hired on a fluke because I was owed a favor. There wasn’t an opening, and while I was assigned the night cops assignment then standard for newbies, I had six other hours a day to cover other things, five when two minor beats were added.

Since all beats were filled, the editor, Jim Leavey, asked what else I’d like to write about [a really remarkable option for a teenager]. So I said “How about civil rights, radical politics, and [Lyndon Johnson’s] war on poverty?”

A year later, I had won the paper the state’s highest journalism honors, the Best Community Service award from the Nevada State Press Association for my coverage of Sin City’s African American community — which had previously been covered, if at all, with brief statements from “black leaders” essentially picked by the establishment for their politically “safe” opinions.

The paper was then owned by Don W. Reynolds, an Arkansas old school libertarian and a man who let the paper alone, save for an occasional editorial. Some of the other editorials were written by me, and were notably provocative.

But that’s what the R-J was then.

As for now, let’s begin with a quote from a 10 April 2012 profile by Rick Perlstein for Rolling Stone about Sin City’s preeminent casino mogul, Sheldon Adelson, now 82 and worth nearly $30 million, give or take:

Right before the grand opening of the {Adelson’s Venetian hotel and casino], in 1999, the Culinary Workers staged a demonstration on the public sidewalk out front. Adelson told the cops to start making arrests; the cops refused. Glen Arnodo, an official at the union at the time, relates what happened next: “I was standing on the sidewalk and they had two security guards say I was on private property, and if I didn’t move they’d have to put me under ‘citizen’s arrest.’ I ignored them.” The guards once again told the police to arrest Arnodo and again, he says, they refused. The Civil Rights hero Rep. John Lewis, in town to support the rally, said the whole thing reminded him of living in the South during Jim Crow.

Marvels Arnodo, “Here you have a sidewalk that 12 billion people walk down, [and] the only people who can’t use it are the union!” The Culinary Workers argued before the National Labor Relations Board that Adelson’s attempts to keep them from demonstrating violated federal labor law. Adelson’s lawyers countered that their client’s First Amendment rights were being violated – because his threats of arrests were an instance of “petitioning the government.” The union won the right to protest; Adelson refused to comply with the settlement, copies of which the union passed out on that very same sidewalk. That was “fraudulent use of the seal of a government agency,” the Venetian argued, further claiming that union workers had “impersonated” NLRB officials, and that the volunteer labor activists had been coerced. The great civil liberties attorney Alan Dershowitz got involved – on Adelson’s side. “The Venetian has no property rights to the sidewalk,” a federal appeals judge told them in 2007. Unmoved, Adelson tried, without success, to take the case all the way to the Supreme Court.  After all, Adelson told the Wall Street Journal, radical Islam and the right to more easily join a union were the two most “fundamental threats to society.”

Did I mention Adelson is nuts? But don’t take my word for it – it was George W. Bush who called him “some crazy Jewish billionaire.”

Adelson has one cause above all other, Israel, one he approaches from the zalous perspective of the Likud.

Consider this from an Adelson Family Foundation press release issued in Jerusalem on 29 April 2009:

The Shalem Center and the Adelson Family Foundation, today jointly announced the creation of the Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem. The Institute will be funded by the Foundation with a gift of $4.5 million. The gift launches an academic and research institute that will develop, articulate and build support for the strategic principles needed to address the challenges currently facing Israel and the West.

The newly named Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies is part of the Shalem Center, a research and academic institute in Jerusalem. The Adelson Institute, whose founding chairman and head is Natan Sharansky, includes as fellows Lt. Gen (Res.) Moshe Yaalon, Martin Kramer, Michael Oren and Yossi Klein Halevi. The institute will explore topics ranging from democracy and security, to nationalism, terror and identity.

“Long-term strategies have to be built on values, not short-term interests. Real, lasting interests are always connected to values like democracy, respect for identity, religious tolerance, and freedom. The gift and vision of Sheldon and Miri Adelson will enable us to tackle the most serious challenges facing the Middle East and the West and to build long-view approaches and plans that will ensure the stability and peace of Israel and of the free world,” said Adelson Institute Founding Chairman Natan Sharansky, a distinguished fellow at the Shalem Center.

Now why do we mention Adelson?

It’s because he has just bought the R-J, paying a price that’s probably what it’s worth just so he can have a platform to advance his own interests, most notably destroying political enemies and ensuring that Nevada sends neocon Republicans to Congress instead of Democrats like Harry Reid.

Otherwise, journalism doesn’t really matter to Adelson.

From A 2014 report in the Israeli paper Haaretz:

Adelson already owns Israel Hayom, a free Israeli newspaper widely seen as reflecting the positions of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is considered close to Adelson, and, more recently, news website NRG and religious newspaper Makor Rishon.

“I don’t like journalism,” Adelson said, highlighting what he said was the media’s insistence on focusing on the empty half of the glass.

And while Adelson contends he won’t endanger editorial independence, he’s already belied that claim, as reporters from the Las Vegas Review-Journal were able to document in a story published 19 December:

Just over a month before Sheldon Adelson’s family was revealed as the new owner of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, three reporters at the newspaper received an unusual assignment passed down from the newspaper’s corporate management: Drop everything and spend two weeks monitoring all activity of three Clark County judges.

The reason for the assignment and its unprecedented nature was never explained.

One of the three judges observed was District Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez, whose current caseload includes Jacobs v. Sands, a long-running wrongful termination lawsuit filed against Adelson and his company, Las Vegas Sands Corp., by Steven Jacobs, who ran Sands’ operations in Macau.

The case has attracted global media attention because of Jacobs’ contention in court filings that he was fired for trying to break the company’s links to Chinese organized crime triads, and allegations that Adelson turned a blind eye to prostitution and other illegal activities in his resorts there.

But all their story didn’t make it in print, as noted by Newsonomics the same day:

In a cascade of curious events, the paper’s own reporters and editors attempting to report on the sale — and to question the potential editorial impact and brand damage of the “secret” sale — reportedly saw their online-first story significantly changed, and the presses subject to a brief halt, as the paper re-plated with a new version of the suspect story.

According to the Huffington Post, “[Jason] Taylor, the paper’s publisher, stopped the presses Thursday night to remove some noteworthy quotes from the paper’s story on the sale, as The Huffington Post reported Saturday. For instance, the edited version no longer included Review-Journal editor Michael Hengel asking who is behind the company and what are their expectations. Eric Hartley, who covers Clark County for the paper, tweeted the HuffPost story on Saturday night and wrote, ‘This is simply wrong.’”

Mike Hengel, the editor who allowed those reporters the freedom to report the actual news, was soon for the chop, as noted in a 23 December MediaWire report:

Hengel, who has led the Review-Journal since 2010, will be succeeded by an interim replacement selected by newspaper chain GateHouse Media. In the meantime, Adelson’s management will search for a long-term editor.

Earlier today, Hengel told the Los Angeles Times he first realized he’d accepted a buyout offer when he read about it in a front-page editorial written by Adelson’s new managers.

“I figured, I may as well see what the offer was,” Hengel told the Los Angeles Times.

Here’s his message to the newsroom announcing his replacement:

Subject: It’s been a privilege and a pleasure

To: Newsroom

All:

I may not get around to see all of you, so I’ll hope you’ll accept my thanks through this email. I admire you all and thank you for giving the RJ your very best while I was the editor. I leave here knowing that won’t change. You are professionals.

I feel very lucky that I had the opportunity to work with all of you. And I was fortunate to be involved with a newspaper that breaks stories, not just news. The aggressiveness you have shown in covering the stories revolving around our new ownership has been inspiring. I am very proud of James, Howard, Jennifer, Eric and Jim for the their great work. I say that knowing that there are many others in this newsroom who would have performed just as admirably had they been asked.

I never imagined I would go out while working one of the great stories of my 40-year career. Yet, it happened. How lucky can an editor get?

I have no idea what I will do going forward, but I plan to stay in Las Vegas, so I’ll probably see you around. Until then, thanks again for everything.

Onward,

Mike

Next up, there’s this from a 27 offering from Dave Danforth, a columnist for the Aspen Daily News in Colorado:

We wanted to escape attention on billionaire Sheldon Adelson’s quiet purchase of Nevada’s largest paper in the last two weeks, but we can’t. It’s just too riveting. Two shoes dropped. Then, came a third when the paper dug up the identity of its new owner. Now comes the fourth, about a mystery writer and a Las Vegas judge whose performance was slammed — in a Connecticut newspaper 2,200 miles away.

Our lesson comes first. If you ever buy a newspaper in order to control what it prints, don’t follow the Las Vegas road map. Though Adelson has denied any intentions to make the Las Vegas Review-Journal a mouthpiece for his Republican leanings in an election year, practically no one in the outside world — or at the newspaper — believes him.

Now, we come to what simply must be a fictitious story. It involves a small daily in Connecticut taking a sudden interest in a Las Vegas judge who apparently sorely irritated Mr. Adelson, a billionaire casino owner whose Sands Company runs the Venetian in Las Vegas.

More after the jump, including a notable cartoon. . . Continue reading