Category Archives: MSM

Radio wingnuts face furious financial flameouts

Right wing talk radio is in a serious meltdown, with its two leading names being toward oblivion as their audiences age to the point advertisers are placing their media buys in other markets and stations are turning towards other formats.

From Clay Bennett of the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

From Clay Bennett of the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

The theocratic Glenn Beck, who left a fat Fox paycheck to launch his own media empire, is fing that the main fuel of The Blaze these days is investor and banker capital.

The Daily Beast reports:

The axe fell once again on Glenn Beck’s crumbling media empire Thursday as employees in the New York and Washington offices of The Blaze, Beck’s multi-media online operation, along with business staffers in Los Angeles and the documentary unit in Columbus, Ohio, were told their jobs are on the chopping block, according to multiple sources who spoke The Daily Beast on condition of anonymity.

Sources estimated that nearly 40 people are being laid off—including about 20 in New York, a dozen in Washington, five in Ohio and two or three working out of the LA office suite of former Blaze CEO Kraig Kitchin—in order to satisfy the requirements of a multimillion-dollar bank loan taken out recently to keep Beck’s revenue-challenged enterprise running.

Ironically, the mass layoffs are occurring shortly after the company hired CNN alumnus Matt Frucci, former executive producer of the cable network’s New Day morning show, to run The Blaze’s television operation in New York—which apparently will no longer exist.

 New York-based radio and television personality Buck Sexton will remain with Beck’s operation, according to an informed source, although at least some of Sexton’s production staff are losing their jobs.
From Steve Sack of the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

From Steve Sack of the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

And radio’s most famous wingnut, the man who gave us “feminazi,” “gorbasm,” and other bilious neologisms, is also facing tough times, reported Eric Boehlert of Media Matters earlier this month:

For talk radio, there’s probably only one contract that enters that realm of notoriety: Rush Limbaugh’s eight-year, $400-million deal, signed in the summer of 2008 with his longtime radio employer Premiere Radio Networks.

Owned by Clear Channel Communications, which has since changed its name to iHeartRadio, Premiere’s Limbaugh deal instantly dwarfed any payout in AM/FM history. (Only Howard Stern’s contract with Sirius was larger.) The contract, which included a staggering $100 million signing bonus, never panned out as the wheels began to come off Limbaugh’s radio empire.

This year, his contract is up and the timing couldn’t be worse. The talker is facing ratings hurdles, aging demographics, and an advertising community that increasingly views him as toxic, thanks in part to his days-long sexist meltdown over Sandra Fluke in 2012. (He’s also stumbling through the GOP primary season.)

Concurrently, iHeartRadio’s parent company, iHeartMedia, is heading to court, teetering on bankruptcy. The once-dominant radio behemoth is saddled with $20 billion in debt, thanks to a misguided leveraged takeover engineered by Bain Capital in 2008, the same year the radio giant inked its disastrous Limbaugh deal.

Limbaugh’s been plagued of late by those declining numbers, along with dropped stations, and decl9ining interest from other media in covering hsi scurrilous rants.

But there’s still no conspicuous mainstream radio presence from the other end of the political spectrum.

Blood on the Greek newsroom floor. . .

Declining newspaper circulations aren’t a problem unique to the U.S., as evidenced in this graphic from a new report [PDF] from the Hellenic Statistical Authority [Elstat]:

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From Elstat:

On the basis of the available data of the 2015 survey and the corresponding data of the 2013 and 2014 surveys, ELSTAT announces the following results:
In 2015, an overall decrease of 10.67% is recorded in the total sales of newspapers in comparison with 2014. The only increase observed is recorded in the  sales of the category “Other type of newspapers”, which increased by 14.12% in comparison with 2014

A similar trend is observed for the sales of newspapers in 2014, which dropped by 8.91% in comparison with 2013. An increase is recorded only in the sales of daily morning political newspapers, by 3.55%, and in the sales of religious newspapers, by 25.53%.

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

Chart of the day: Institutional trust by the young

And guess what the young distrust even more than Wall Street. . .

From the executive summary of the Survey of Young Americans’ Attitudes Toward Politics and Public Service [PDF], a just-released national poll 18- to 29-year-olds from the Institute of Politics of Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government:

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Another interesting finding from the survey reveals that while men feel Hillary Clinton would do more for women than Bernie Sanders if elected, women feel just the opposite.

More California newspapers up for grabs

One of the nation’s most voracious media giants has made a bid for the company that owns the Los Angeles Times and the San Diego Union Tribune, and if the deal is done, California’s newspaper economy would be almost entirely in the hands of two corporations known for ruthless labor relations and replacing local content with stories derived from others newspapers in their respective chains.

From Reuters:

Gannett Co Inc, publisher of USA Today, said it offered to buy Tribune Publishing Co in a deal valued at about $815 million, including debt, but the owner of the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune refused to begin “constructive” talks.

“We therefore are prepared to consider all alternatives to complete this transaction,” Gannett Chief Executive Robert Dickey said in a letter to Tribune Publishing’s board on Monday.

Tribune Publishing, however, said in a statement that it had told Gannett it would engage financial and legal advisers to review the proposal and its “numerous contingencies.”

Chicago-based Tribune Publishing has been shaking up its top management, replacing its chief executive in February and said a month later that it would replace its chief financial officer.

Gannett, the publisher of USA Today, controls more of the country’s newspaper circulation than any other publisher, and if the company wins control of Tribune publishing, the merger would give them control of more than 17 percent of the nation’s total newspaper circulation.

From the Wall Street Journal:

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Digital First, the number two company on the list, controls the largest share of newspaper circulation in California, and owns both the Los Angeles News Group and the Bay Area News Group.

The merger would leave the vast majority of California’s newspaper circulation in the hands of two corporate giants.

More from the New York Times, focusing on problems in Tribune Publishing’s California papers:

In recent years, The Los Angeles Times has become a flash point for disagreement between Tribune Publishing and its California newspapers. Austin Beutner, The Times’s publisher, was ousted last fall after only a year in the position because company executives viewed his ambitious plan to dominate California journalism as defiant and a threat to their centralized strategy. The newsroom has been reduced by job cuts. The philanthropist Eli Broad has long sought to buy the paper, but his moves have been spurned.

In a further sign of discontent between Tribune Publishing and its California newspapers — in addition to The Los Angeles Times, the company also owns The San Diego Union-Tribune — the two entities have sparred over financial projections.

More recently, Tribune Publishing failed in its bid for Freedom Communications, which owns The Orange County Register and The Press-Enterprise of Riverside, Calif., after the Justice Department objected to the deal.

The Wall Street Journal looks at key differences between the two publishing giants:

Gannett owns 107 mostly small- and mid-market U.S. dailies in 34 states, as well as its flagship, USA Today. Last summer, after Gannett was spun off as a newspaper group from television properties that now make up Tegna Inc., Mr. Dickey said the company would aggressively pursue acquisitions of larger market publications.

Tribune Publishing also was separated from television holdings but has struggled to find its footing as an independent company since the split in late 2014, less than two years after its predecessor company emerged from bankruptcy. Tribune owns 11 big dailies in disparate markets that have made it difficult to combine costs as well as others have.

The company has reported declining year-over-year revenue in almost every quarter since the spinoff. Its stock price has tumbled 69% since then, from $24.50 a share to $7.52 at market close Friday. On Monday, following news of the proposal, shares of Tribune Publishing jumped 53% to $11.50.

Back when esnl came to California in 1967, all of the California papers involved were family owned, with the San Diego publications owned by the Copley family and the Los Angeles Times by the Chandlers. Both families are now gone from the business.

Otis Chandler, the last of his family to run the Times, was unique in that for all his considerable imperial ambitions and a reluctance to expose the misdeeds of some of LA’s rich and powerful, under his reign the Times accomplished some remarkable journalism and opened up bureaus on other continents.

He was ousted by his own family, who wanted cash more than Pulitzers, and the paper went steadily downhill until today it’s a mere shadow of what it was when Otis was at the helm.

The San Diego Union and Tribune, then two separate publications, were owned by the Copley family and managed by retired Marine Corps Lt. Gen Victor “Brute” Krulak. Investment bankers took over Copley’s papers, then sold them to Tribune Publishing, leaving California newspaper landscape more consolidated, as well as devastated.

Blood on the newsroom floor: More carnage

2016 is shaping up as another bad year for the news media, with downsizings happening in both the United States and Europe.

We’ll begin with the most notable new example, via the New York Post:

Chairman and Publisher Arthur “Pinch” Sulzberger Jr.’s management team has been talking with some of the Times’ unions to come to a deal to provide reduced severance to those affected, sources told The Post.

“There’s a goal of a couple of hundred people,” said a source familiar with talks. “They don’t want to pay out big packages, and they’re having negotiations with the unions.”

The layoffs would likely occur between the Aug. 21 end of the summer Olympics in Brazil and Election Day on Nov. 8, sources said.

A union source confirmed there are ongoing talks about reducing severance pay, but wasn’t aware of lay-off plans at this time.

Next, the hammer falls at a major Midwestern paper, the same one esnl read as a grade schooler growing up in a small Kansas farm town.

Via Cision Media Research:

Layoffs and buyouts have hit the newsroom at The Kansas City Star. The buyouts affected several veterans of the paper, including editorial page editor Steve Paul, on staff since 1975; op-ed columnist and editorial board member Barb Shelly, with the paper since 1984; longtime theater critic Robert Trussel, on staff since 1977; digital editor Jody Cox; and assistant sports editor  Mark Zeligman.

The following staffers were laid off:

  • Greg Hack, assistant business editor
  • Alan Bavley, health reporter
  • Brian Burnes, metro reporter
  • James Fussell, features reporter
  • Mary Schulte, online photo editor

The Pittsburgh Business Times covers the kinder, gentler form of downsizing on their own home turf:

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette generated enough editorial staffers to take a second buyout offer in the last seven months that it will not move forward with any layoffs.

“With this buyout, we got near enough to where we need to be that we don’t need to go further,” said Lisa Hurm, general manager for the PG, a division of Toledo-based Block Communications, Inc.

Hurm declined to offer specifics on the number of editorial staffers to take the buyout. She added there were staff reductions in other areas of the publication along with other turnover that layoffs proved unnecessary.

PG management decided to not go forward with any involuntary layoffs after issuing a notice to the leadership of the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh of the possibility of newsroom layoffs a little more than a month ago.

Digital First Media, the company that just announced it was eliminating all but the thinnest, token veneer of editing at its Northern California newspapers, has announced the sale of more of its holdings as it continues in a desperate struggle to raise cash.

But that’s what happens when investment bankers look at newspaper holdings as profit centers, a delusion if ever there was one.

From Talking New Media:

The newspaper chain Digital First News [21 April] announced the sale of New England Newspapers Inc., a day after the chain sold The Salt Lake Tribune to Paul Huntsman, the son of businessman and philanthropist Jon M. Huntsman. The papers that are part of the group sold include three dailies and one weekly: The Berkshire Eagle, The Brattleboro Reformer, the Bennington Banner — and the weekly Manchester Journal.

The papers were sold to a local group, Birdland Acquisition LLC whose principals are John C. “Hans” Morris, former president of Visa Inc., Fredric D. Rutberg, former Pittsfield District Court judg, Robert G. Wilmers, chairman and CEO of M&T Bank, and Stanford Lipsey, publisher emeritus of The Buffalo News.

Digital First Media, which is the management company which owns MediaNews Group, Digital First Ventures, and 21st Century Media, which incorporates the old Journal Register Company, just recently was able to acquire the assets of Freedom Communications in a bankruptcy auction. In that auction, Tribune Publishing, which owns the Los Angeles Times and San Diego Union Tribune, appeared to have won the auction, which would have added the Orange County Register to its newspaper assets. But the Department of Justice stepped in objecting to the acquisition, and so Digital First Media won the auction. DFM owns papers in Southern California including the Los Angeles Daily News and Long Beach Press Telegram.

But DFM is hardly on solid financial group. A year ago the chain, owned by the private equity firm Alden Global Capital, attempted to sell itself whole, but had to back away when no seller interested in its dispersed holdings came forward to bid on the entire company.

Given that layoffs usually following sales, it’s a good news/bad news kind of story.

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

Headline of the day II: Oh, that’s gotta really hurt

From the Guardian, and another reason editors are really, really important:

Los Angeles Times story on UN ‘4/20’ drug policy based on fake reports

Press release hoax had claimed UN office on drugs and crime recommended decriminalizing marijuana and other liberal policies before Ungass summit