The New York Times Stock Hit an All-Time Low Last Week

By Mick Gregory

The Times stock is nearing fire sale prices and gets a dead cat bounce to excite the Sulzbergers. Yet, who wants it?

The company has raised circulation prices at The Times and reduced third-party and non-profitable distribution, so circulation numbers falling are blamed on “management” not the content or bias. The New York Times’ quarterly dividend of 23 cents per share — a yield of 5.5 percent — amounts to a wash with real and hidden inflation at the same rate. I hope investors don’t really need the money.

Wall Street analysts have concerns about the continued weakness at The Boston Globe and the regional group is expected to keep earnings in a free fall. Additionally, there will be 12 weeks in the fourth quarter this year versus 13 weeks last year, reducing sales comparisons during the most profitable weeks of the year. So, you will see a dip in sales due to the calendar and poor performance.

Add the fact that the stock is one with an elite voting class in control by the high-living family that doesn’t have to follow the SEC stockholder protections that Sarbanes-Oxley provides for. There is no shareholder right to question the decisions of the Sulzberger famiy.

The stock is off 37 percent from its 52-week high of $26.90 set in February. Shares traded at a year-low of $16.02 last week but had a “dead cat” bounce this week of 3 percent. I predicted that the stock would dip below $18 several months ago. Now I am resetting my prediction to $14.

Then Mark Cuban should buy it and throw out the Sulzbergers. Maybe Dan Rather could be made the editor? Maybe Google’s founders are at that stage of self actualization, that they want to buy the Old Gray Lady? Nah, they are much too smart with money and innovative.

How about Gannett? They would be attacked worse than Murdoch. “How dare they!” What’s your guess?

Meanwhile, the grim reaper continues to cull the “journalistis” at every newspaper large and not so.

Here is an email an SOB editor must have spent two days writing:

11/4/07

Good evening,

As promised, I am passing along the major details of our newsroom
reorganization.

We will hold staff meetings to discuss it at 5 p.m. Wednesday for the
night staff and 11:45 a.m. Thursday for dayside.

What I am posting here is a framework mostly, dealing with staff
assignments. But that is only the first phase. We have considerable work to
do if we are going to fully realize this structure’s potential on the printed
newspaper page and online.

Among other things, we’ll need to revise all of our news protocols. And just
about every reporter on the list will have to endure what we call a “beat
clarification” process to establish topical priorities.

For now, the structure you see here will simply overlay the existing print and
online newspapers. But if we do our jobs well, within a few weeks, you’ll
begin to see real changes on the page. They will be, I sincerely hope, for the
better.

Let me say for the record, once again, with roughly 25 fewer newsroom
staffers, there will be noticeable content reductions in some areas. No
reorganization plan can change that. Some things we’ve done in the past
cannot be done.

As we’ve talked with people today, several have asked “why me” or “why
this decision instead of that.” Well, the whys for these changes ought to be
well understood by now. The San Diego Union Tribune announced a
newsroom staff reduction targeted at 10 percent today. Other papers, in just
the last few weeks, have announced similar or greater reductions. Our
overall budget reduction will be about 10 percent. After rehires, our new
staff will be about 12 to 15 percent smaller.

Absent these changes, over which the newsroom had no control, many of the
assignment changes outlined below would not have happened. Many of the
columns we killed today would have continued. Many of the restructured
departments would look unchanged.

But we had to make changes, significant changes and what is outlined here
represents our best ideas for maintaining the core of our print newspaper
while continuing to build our online presence. All of this can be second
guessed and I would guess it will be in coming weeks.

But do always keep in mind, if it doesn’t work, if it doesn’t achieve our
hoped for goals, then we’ll do something else. More than ever, we need to be
both patient and flexible. As always, my door is open to anyone who wants
to discuss these issues further.

Among the most significant changes is the creation of a new online/print
news team, sort of a journalistic skunk works. This team will be led by Carla
Savalli, our senior editor for local news who has been our chief change agent
in the last year, creating the 24/7 news desk for one thing.

Carla becomes senior editor for innovation and new content. She’ll supervise
the skunk works and also oversee our online operation.

Her team will include:
Nancy Malone — Deputy editor
Kevin Graman — Daily general assignment
To be announced – AM breaking news/general assignment
Rehire or new hire — PM breaking news/general assignment
Erica Curless – Idaho general assignment
Jim Camden — Online data base reporter

In addition, Bill Morlin, investigations and federal courts will continue to
report to Carla. Jim Camden will be giving up his Spin Control political
column. However, we’re going to develop a new political blog, similar to the
hugely successful SportsLink, where all of our public life and government
writers can post on political developments.

The innovation and new content team will flip on its end the traditional late-
in-the-day deadline structure. For this group, deadline pressure will come
early in the day as they write first for the web and then provide context and
insight for the online newspaper. They will use all of the tools at our
disposal, print, online, blogs, audio, video, etc., to tell the stories that make
our region different from any other on any given day.

The reordered city desk will be run by Addy Hatch, our current city editor.
Her deputies will include Dave Wasson, Dan Hansen and Scott Maben.

The big change in the city desk structure is the incorporation of the Business
department and staff into the city desk. We’ll continue to have a daily,
Saturday and Sunday business section, of course. But the staff will be
supervised through the city desk. Alison Boggs, the current business editor,
returns to reporting.

You’ll see that we’ve asked Shawn Vestal to return to reporting, meaning
The Falls blog will end. And Pia Hansen is giving up her column to take on
an important general assignment role. Bert Caldwell gives up his column
and returns to full-time business reporting.

That gives us this city desk lineup:
Alison Boggs – Social services/aging
Shawn Vestal – Higher education
John Stucke – Health
Jody Lawrence-Turner — Public safety
Jonathan Brunt — Spokane City/Spokane County
Sara Leaming — K-12
Richard Roessler — Olympia
Rehire – Natural resources
Karen Dorn-Steele — County/state courts
Pia Hansen — GA/personality profiles/obits
Becky Kramer – Idaho GA
Betsy Russell — Boise
Parker Howell — Business
Bert Caldwell — Business
Tom Sowa — Business/.txt
Doug Clark – Columnist

Among the newspaper’s most important initiatives is our Voices operation.
This year, we launched a weekly Voice for Post Falls/Rathdrum/Spirit Lake.
Next spring we’ll launch a new Voice for the West Plains. We also have a
twice-weekly Voice for the Spokane Valley and two weekly sections for the
city of Spokane. The Voices are among our fastest growing print section and
readership just keeps growing. Under this plan, for the first time, the Voices
will be fully staffed by full-time reporters.

Tad Brooks will continue to serve as Voices editor. Jeff Jordan is deputy
editor and Jim Allen is assistant editor. Tad and his team will assign
reporters to specific Voices. For the first time ever, a staff reporter will be
assigned to Handle extra serving Kootenai County.

The Voices staff now includes:
Nina Culver
Mike Prager
Lisa Leinberger
John Craig
Amy Cannata

Amy, our first mobile journalist (MoJo) will bring her particular expertise to
the Voices where we intend to launch a significant online initiative
sometime next year.

For those specifically interested in Idaho coverage, the breakdown is this:
Erica Curless – Idaho general assignment
Becky Kramer – Idaho General Assignment
Betsy Russell – Boise bureau and capitol coverage
To be named – Handle Extra/Post Falls Voice reporter (from the
Voices reporters listed above).
Dave Oliveria – Online and Huckleberries Online

That is a net loss of three Idaho news reporters from the pre-layoff period.
We will continue to staff the Idaho bureau office. We’ll cover Idaho preps
and University of Idaho sports out of that office and Kathy Plonka will
remain in Idaho as a staff photographer. The quantity and quality of Idaho
coverage ought to improve immediately as we get these folks in place.
Before the end of the year, we’ll launch our new Regional page where
content from Idaho and the Valley that doesn’t make one of the section
fronts will get good display.

On the Features side, the most significant change is the loss of Shadra
Beesley as 7 editor. Shadra has been a force since joining us a year or so
ago. She didn’t just caretake the 7 she inherited from Nancy Malone, she put
her own stamp on it. But Shadra is one of our most versatile editors. She will
move to the night copy desk where she will be an invaluable help in simply
putting out the paper. My thanks to her. Jim Kershner will be giving up his
longtime column in order to help boost our features reporting.

Features Editor Ken Paulman and deputy editor Rick Bonino will take on 7
as part of their regular editing responsibilities. Cheryl-Anne Milsap will
continue to edit Home, write her weekly Home Planet column and produce
our new Spokane Scene page.

The Features reporter lineup doesn’t change over much, except we did have
to accommodate for the loss of Virginia DeLeon. The staff:
Heather Lalley — Ethics, values and religion
Jim Kershner – General assignment and performing arts
Paul Turner — The Slice
Dan Webster – General assignment, books and movies
Lorie Hutson — Food/GA
Tom Bowers — 7
Som Jordan – 7

Our online operation will continue to be run by Online News Editor Ryan
Pitts who will report to Carla Savalli, but retain full responsibility for the
operation of SpokesmanReview.com and our other digital platforms. This is
a department where we took some serious hits. At one point we had lost all
three of our online producers. Here is Ryan’s lineup:
Colin Mulvaney — Multimedia coordinator
Gina Boysun — Programmer
To be hired — Programmer
Andrew Zahler — Online producer
Thuy Nguyen — Online producer
Rehire or new hire – Online producer/multimedia
Dave Oliveria — Huckleberries Online

Our night and day copy desks, now consolidated, also lost a number of key
staff members.

Geoff Pinnock retains oversight of our desk and production departments, as
well as photo, as our senior editor for design and presentation. Bertil
Peterson remains news editor. Adrian Rogers, who was deputy news editor
until taking time off to go back to school, will return as Bertil’s chief deputy.
Copy editors include:
Tom Green
Kat Smith
Ruth Reynolds
Cathy Reynolds
Katharine Kumangai
Anne LaTourneau
Mike McGarr
Shadra Beesley
Rehire or new hire

Design and art staffers include:
Ralph Walter – assistant design chief
Rick House — Copy editor/designer
Kimberly Lusk — Copy editor/designer
Molly Quinn – Artist

The Editorial Page staff includes:
Doug Floyd — Editorial page editor
Gary Crooks – Editorial page writer
Rebecca Nappi – Editorial Page writer
Lynn Swanbom — Editorial page copy editor

The editorial assistant staff includes:
Mary Beth Donelan — Administrator
Rainey Wilson — Editorial assistant
Marissa Hipp — 7 editorial assistant
Sherry Adkins — Editorial assistant
Tracy Poindexter — Editorial assistant
To be hired — Receptionist

The photo staff includes:
Larry Reisenouer — Photo editor
Liz Kishimoto – Assistant photo editor
Brian Plonka — Photographer
Dan Pelle — Photographer
Christoper Anderson — Photographer
Jesse Tinsley — Photographer
Kathy Plonka — Photographer
Bart Rayniak — Photographer
To be hired — Photographer

The Sports staff is unchanged.

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