Buyouts, layoffs, big declines in readership and ads — it is a bleak Christmas for newspapers

The decline of the newspaper media monopoly never slows. If you have any stock in newspaper-heavy media, it’s too late to get out. As of the end of 2008, 30 daily newspapers are for sale. Buyouts were the good old days. Now there are brutal Christmans-time layoffs. Google the Gannett Blog and find a running count by an ex-Gannetter. 

The layoffs and firings that started this week at newspapers owned by Gannett, including at the flagship USA Today, have been especially ruthless,  in addition to being timed just weeks before Christmas, they number in the thousdands.  But why not? These are mainly socialists and athiests who mock families and call moms breeders. 

It’s bloody news for newspaper journalists. Even the sill profitable Gannett newspapers (many still have profit margins at 20 percent) are shedding employees at a breathtaking rate. 

This week  a Gannett spokesperson said the cuts are being managed locally, at each newspaper, which is why as a company they’ve not released figures on specific jobs other than to say it’s a 10 percent cut companywide. While early figures compiled paper-by-paper totaled 1,700 Gannett jobs cut, it looks like that number may well pass 2,000 by next week.

In just the past week several thousand newspaper employees in America have lost their jobs, Cox Newspapers announced the closing of their Washington, DC, bureau, and the Tribune Co. will lay off more people at their flagship paper in Chicago.

In Chicago the credit analyst Fitch Ratings predicted that the continued decline in advertising revenues will cause some newspapers to default on their debt in 2009, and rated the debt of two huge newspaper companies – The McClatchy Co. and Tribune Co. – ask “junk.” Fitch also predicted that several cities could find themselves without daily print newspapers by 2010.

As many as 1,700 Gannett jobs were cut this week, from assistant managing editors on down, including reductions of up to 31 percent of the staff at one newspaper, The Salinas Californian, according to a reader tally on a blog published by a former Gannett worker, Jim Hopkins.

 

The most recent E&P (an online Web site on newspapers that ironically ended its print edtions a decade ago) reports that recruitment advertising declined in May. The Newspaper Conference Board, which measures job ads in 51 print newspapers across the country, said its Help-Wanted Advertising Index is 33. It was 38 one year ago.

“This is certainly a more negative picture going into the second half of the year, compared to the beginning of the year,” Ken Goldstein, a labor economist at the Conference Board, said in a statement.

In the last three months, help-wanted advertising fell in all nine U.S. regions.

 


The Dallas Morning News (a monopoly) said today it’s going to offer buyouts to the newsroom. That means waving a modest proposal of a few extra weeks of severance pay in front of the noses of older employees. Reality check: the UAW buyouts give auto workers 90 percent of their pay and free health care for life.

 

I was walking my dog this morning at 5:30 a.m. and watched a newspaper carrier in a junk car speeding around my neighborhood to drop a paper at every 20th house or so. Just a few years ago, 40 percent of the homes subscribed to the paper. 

Imagine the carbon footprint of that old smokestack medium. 


5 thoughts on “Buyouts, layoffs, big declines in readership and ads — it is a bleak Christmas for newspapers

  1. Same in the UK too. But there has never been a better time for freelance reporters as news desks come under increasing pressure with reduced staff numbers.

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