Friday, June 27, 2008

Sorry State

Newspapers are dying. This is not a drill.

People have been talking about the inevitable demise of the print newspaper ever since the Internet came along in the early 1990s. Back then, it seemed a distant forecast, like astronomers' talk of the eventual death of the sun.

Now the death of the "Sun" seems a lot closer:

Officers of the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild, which represents nearly 400 [Baltimore] Sun workers in the news, advertising, circulation, building and finance departments, said yesterday that they were told by Sun management that 55 to 60 jobs would be cut in the newsroom, which would be a reduction of roughly 20 percent.

That's just one news item from the past week. Here are a few more:

[Martin] Gee, a veteran designer and illustrator, drew industry-wide attention this spring when he created a poignant photo display of images from the [San Jose] Mercury News that represented the emptiness of the paper following recent cutbacks. He posted them on his Flickr page, which was eventually linked to by numerous other Web sites.

E&P reprinted many of the images in the June issue, with a story by Editor Greg Mitchell in which Gee stated: "I love this paper," adding, "it's the one I grew up with." Gee told Mitchell at the time that he was not reprimanded for the display, but "our editor wrote a memo saying we should not dwell on the past."

He also said in that piece: "I am probably on the top of the list for the next round of layoffs." Gee could not be reached for comment Friday, but several sources confirmed his layoff, which also was reported on a number of Web sites.

Eight others at the Merc also got the axe. Meanwhile ...

Boston Globe unions have been asked by management to take an across-the-board 10 percent pay cut to help trim costs, while the newspaper also looks at consolidating its printing plants, according to several union members.

The Globe has just completed a round of buyouts that led to the departure of several high-profile staffers, and a top union official vowed yesterday to fight the proposed pay cut.

... The Boston Herald officially announced plans yesterday to outsource its printing operations and lay off 130 to 160 press operators, electricians and other production-related workers later this year. Herald owner and publisher Patrick J. Purcell said there are no plans to cut newsroom staff.

And in Texas:

The [Fort Worth] Star-Telegram announced that 130 positions would be eliminated through layoffs and voluntary buyouts.

Rumors about a corporate-wide downsizing had surfaced the week before. First thing Monday morning, the McClatchy Co., the Star-Telegram’s parent, announced a 10 percent reduction in staffing.

Even one-time flagships are foundering:

The [Hartford] Courant, the state's largest newspaper and owned by Chicago-based Tribune Publishing Co., will cut 60 newsroom positions. The paper's news pages will be reduced by 25 percent.

The Charlotte Observer is shrinking its staff by 11 percent, or 123 jobs.

No region of the country is immune:

The publisher of the Palm Beach Post said on Wednesday it would cut 300 jobs from its payroll of 1,350 because of a slump in ad revenues, increased competition from the Internet and an overall tough economic environment.

About 130 newsroom jobs will be cut, Palm Beach Post Publisher Doug Franklin said in a memo to staff.

Even the real estate is on the block:

CHICAGO, June 25 -- Tribune Co. is considering selling its iconic headquarters on Chicago's Magnificent Mile and buildings in Los Angeles.

The media conglomerate said Wednesday that it asked real estate firms to explore "strategic options for maximizing the value" of Tribune Tower, a Gothic landmark completed in 1925, and Times Mirror Square, the headquarters of the Los Angeles Times.

Smaller papers are bleeding, too.

PORTLAND, Maine - The Portland Press Herald and Maine Sunday Telegram are eliminating 36 jobs and closing their four news bureaus in response to a continuing decline in advertising revenues, their publisher said Thursday.

One publisher estimates 19 of the top 50 U.S. newspapers are in the red. Even those who survive will change the way they do business. This is a harbinger:

The newspaper industry is taking a beating, and now the Orange County Register is outsourcing some copy editing work to a company in India.

And in Pittsburgh:

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has eliminated stock market tables and Monday business pages, and will trim general news pages when possible, all to cut expenses, Executive Editor David Shribman said Friday.

And that's just the newspaper layoff news from the past week.

Which made this story sort of grimly amusing:

U.S. newspapers got a failing grade for gender diversity in their sports departments and a C for racial diversity, according to a study released Thursday.

Seventy-eight percent of the staffs at Associated Press Sports Editors newspapers and Web sites are white men, the study found. Just 5 percent of sports staffs are black men and just under 3 percent are Latino men. Only 11.5 percent are women.

Yes, believe it or not, top newsgathering organizations still wring their hands about their own "diversity." This was a big deal back in the mid-80s, when someone pointed out that the media, having scolded the rest of corporate and governmental America about integration, had one of the least-integrated businesses in America.

There was a rush to bring more "diversity" into newsrooms -- generally that meant race. It didn't mean gender, because already by that point newsrooms were becoming pink-collar ghettos. It sure didn't mean adding more conservatives or veterans or committed Christians.

That was then. We had sensitivity training. Most of the people who sat in that room with me are out of journalism now. To be talking seriously about making changes for the sake of diversity in this climate is like talking about making staff changes on the "Titanic" while its bow is under water.

Yet there they are:

"Dr. Lapchick's report is a mirror that forces us to look at ourselves," said Garry Howard, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's assistant managing editor/sports and APSE second vice president. "I still feel the future will be better."

... "The 'F' grade is jarring," said Jenni Carlson, president of The Association for Women in Sports Media. "Sports departments need to be held accountable for the diversity of their staffs, and right now, the lack of gender diversity by and large is appalling."

... Lapchick said APSE was the only organization that had ever approached him asking to be surveyed. He suggested "individual newspapers do diversity management training to make those newsrooms — and I would say this about any organization — more welcoming places, so people don't think that they were hired simply because they were a woman or a person of color."

At least the industry that's blind and deaf about everyone else's world is equally so with regard to its own.

Labels: ,