Category Archives: Blood on the Newsroom Floor

The latest news on news media layoffs and downsizings.

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

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:


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 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.


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.