The Spiral Goes Round and Round as the Secondary Newspapers Come Falling Down

Mick Gregory

The Contra Costa Times (a former Knight-Ridder paper) and the ANG (Dizzy Dean Singleton) newspapers, including the Oakland Tribune, will reduce the size of their newsroom staff as the MediaNews Group-owned papers consolidate, Publisher John Armstrong says in a memo to his underlings. “It is our hope attrition will cover this reduction, but there is no guarantee that layoffs can be avoided,” Armstrong wrote.

Today, Armstrong and editors Kevin Keane and Pete Wevurski are wearing their starched white, button down shirts and ties to the meeting with their news staff to carry the news from far above their level. “Don’t blame the messenger.” Armstrong’s memo gave no numbers of positions that would be eliminated. That method creates more fear and productivity.

In a separate memo to employees last week, Armstrong said the combined revenues of the Contra Costa, ANG and Hills newspapers and their related products were $245.5 million in the fiscal year that ended June 30 — $21.3 million less than the revenue total in the previous fiscal year, a decline of 8 percent.

During the year, those papers cut their budgets by $16.8 million, he said, which means the papers’ profits were reduced by $4.5 million. “Yes, we’re still profitable, but that is a substantial decline in financial performance, one that we cannot afford to repeat in the fiscal year that started July 1,” Armstrong wrote.

This follows the San Francisco Chronicle’s cut of 100 newsroom positions, where the smoke has still not cleared. There are still about 20 more “buyouts” coming. The final figures won’t be released until mid-August according to an insider.

That should keep some of those no-name copy editors working free overtime.

JPMorgan’s Frederick Searby and other analysts like the New York Times Company’s cost-cutting measures. “They’re finally biting the bullet and adjusting to the reality of an accelerating, secular decline in print,” says Searby.

Even “Pinchey” is starting to get it. What did the NYTimes shares look like at the end of day today (Thursday)?

So far, 14 took “buyouts” at the St. Paul paper, also owned by Dean Singleton’s MediaNews. He said: “The buyouts, along with attrition and decisions not to fill currently open positions, are expected to minimize the need for layoffs.” One departing staffer plans to attend poker-dealing school to work at an Indian casino.
So far, five newsroom employees were “granted” buyouts at the Indianapolis Star, one of Gannett’s top metro papers. There are many more to come my friends. See Ruth’s blog from Indy for details.

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18 thoughts on “The Spiral Goes Round and Round as the Secondary Newspapers Come Falling Down

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