Interview and job hunting tips for journalists

Mick Gregory at Large

More stories from journalists who are surprised that they have been let go.

“After 17 years as a staff photographer, I was laid off via phone call on August 1st while on vacation. A lousy phone call. Does it get any more classless than that? Ok, what the Chicago Sun Times did to their photo staff gets a really special prize. Still, I thought/hoped my work would speak for me. No explanation other than the standard corporate spiel was given: “Due to reduction in staff, your job has been impacted by that… Here’s the HR rep.”

And that was that. It leaves you reeling and your head swirling with unanswered questions with no answers. I wasn’t the last hired, I’m not the oldest, I hadn’t been there the longest, I didn’t have the highest salary. I have no dependents costing the company extra money. I won awards (was even nominated for a Pulitzer), mentored students and interns, worked well with co-workers and do have tremendous ties to this community.

The past few years to ‘that’ phone call I received, work was pretty much a living hell as I witnessed the destruction of a pretty darn good newspaper (The Clarion-Ledger/ Jackson, Ms.) by people who didn’t want to be there, resented being there, had no ties to the community and didn’t want any.

When ‘it’ happens, it hurts, angers and stuns. I’m not sure what the reporter is going for with his story. But will it be any different from any other painful story? Perhaps. Perhaps not.

It’s truly is a hellish thing to be my age (55) and not have a steady income. Tell him that the myriad of paperwork involved in one’s “separation” is daunting, frustrating and seemingly endless. Tell him how frightening it is to be my age and not have health care. I know there are hundreds rowing this same boat with me… or, worse. Jim, mention those same things and apply it to job hunting, especially in this economy, in a market saturated with those same rowers stroking against a strong current. You try not to despair.” — John Dough

Amy Miller writes:

I know many excellent reporters and photographers being laid off, and while it makes for sad, depressing copy, as a reporter, what I really want to read is a thorough, in-depth analysis of the decisions a company such as Gannett has made since the advent of the Internet, especially continued raises to the top brass while continuing to slash resources at local newspapers almost to the point of nonfunctionality. Just ask anyone about Gannett’s ill-fated “Real Life Real News” strategy around 2004, when it blamed declining readership on too much hard news. It’s time to hold these news companies accountable for the regrettable and self-interested business decisions that have helped dismantle the news business and not just lay all the blame on Internet and Craigslist. While the Internet and smartphones are certainly the most disruptive factors at play, they cannot and are not the only reasons for the decline of the news business. Let’s chronicle the real tragedy: the news business itself.

Detroit Metro Times veteran Curt Guyette writes on Facebook:

After 18 years on the job, I was fired from the Metro Times on Friday. Earlier in the week we’d been told that the paper was being put up for sale, and that the information was being put on the Times-Shamrock website as we spoke, but that staff were prohibited from talking to any media about it, because the company wanted to “control” the message.

I ignored the order, and was “terminated” for “gross insubordination” and “breach of company trust.” No dispute about the insubordination; as for the breach of trust, that cuts both ways. Not sure what the future holds, but after reflecting on the situation for a few days I can say that I am relieved to be gone. The MT, for me anyway, had become a soul-killing place, and I’m happy that I’m no longer there. And now a new chapter in my life begins. Life is good.

He added this to his Facebook wall:

One thing needs to be made absolutely clear: I’ve got no gripe with the MT for firing me. My anger/resentment/disappointment/profound sorrow is reserved for what this paper I’ve been so proud of the past 18 years has become. Would I have liked to have gone out differently? Definitely. But am I sad to be gone? Not an iota. Like I said to one of my former workpals just after I got the boot, “At least there was no electroshock or forced lobotomy.” Life is good. And its going to get even better. So don’t anyone say they feel sorry for me, or that they’re sad. This is a life-changing event, that’s for sure. But just as certain is the fact that the road ahead leads to a better place.

Millions have fallen into the lower class and depend on the government for food stamps, the “Earned Income Tax Credit,” and free cell phones. It’s an historic shift that may never be reported accurately by the mainstream media. Careers are shattered, especially for Baby Boomers and the original Gen Xers. If you only read the mainstream media (MSM), you could convince yourself to jump on the food stamp gravy train. It is looking more and more attractive, especially when you can get free SmartPhones and service like millions are in Ohio and other spots in the North East. That is not a positive.

If you have been one of the highly skilled journalists or marketing professionals in major media. Your time is up.

Gannett, owner of 82 daily newspapers and 23 television stations, confirmed Tuesday that some of its local papers have cut staff over the last several weeks.

“Some of our community publishing sites are making cuts to align their business plans with local market conditions,” company spokesman Jeremy Gaines said in a statement.

The layoffs, totaling about a couple of hundred jobs, were revealed at many of the company’s local newspapers over the last 30 days. Jobs were cut both in newsrooms and business operations. Gannett also publishes USA TODAY, which has not been affected by the layoffs.

Gannett did not provide totals for the cutbacks at individual properties. Philly.com reported Monday that The (Wilmington, Del.) News Journal is cutting 28 jobs.

Cutbacks have been a frequent phenomenon at newspapers in the digital era as readers and advertisers have gravitated to computers and mobile devices. Gannett’s newsrooms, like many others, have increased their investment in digital operations as part of the company’s transformation strategy in an effort to depend less on print revenue.

In June, Gannett bought competitor Belo for $2.2 billion, which would increase its broadcast portfolio from 23 to 43 stations. The deal is expected to close by the end of the year.

Let’s get back to focusing on what is in your control. My friends in glass towers, though very productive and focused on the here and now, and gainfully employed, are always on a job hunt now. They are on the hunt every day, like tiger sharks. Some large businesses still use the infamous Enron practice of rank and yank. Many hire consultants to justify a major reorg. Most of us have survived rounds of right sizing.

Do your own business plan and stakeholder engagement analysis. Keep educating yourself and mentoring others. Build up a network of trusted friends and stay in contact with your friends and mentors from college and your first jobs.

All I am saying is remember the Boy & Girl Scouts’ code, “Be Prepared.”

Start the hunt with some of these tips:

Career sites: Linkedin.com, Twitter.com, WordPress.com, Indeed.com  and BrazenCareerist.

I like LinkedIn, let’s start there. Set up your profile from your resume. Once you are have that first draft finished, search for friends in your line of business and from college. Connect with them and see how they have written their profiles. Give a former employee or boss a good reference. Look at Groups. You will be amazed at the depth chart of Groups here. It’s networking made easy.

Brazen Careerist delivers candid, timely advice on all aspects of job hunting and success. Some recent blogs cover How to become the go-to guy (or gal), Tips to impress your interviewer and Five reasons recruiters aren’t giving you the  time of day.

WordPress is the site that I used to publish this blog. It has amazing features. Premium upgrades are very reasonable. You become your own web guru. Your friends may laugh when you tell them you blog and have a website, but when they visit your WordPress site, they should be very impressed if you have practiced a bit on the templates.

Twitter used to be the exclusive IM for journalists, I’m serious. We used to chat online about current events and helped each other out on sources and followup stories. Then Twitter went viral. My teenage daughter showed me some very funny hashtag (#) subjects, such as #thingsgirlssay; I just bit into an amazing peach, is one that cracks me up. Yes, my daughter said that. Men, try that line at the water cooler.

Indeed.com is the career site that will deliver to your email, company openings that you sign up for. Every morning I have interesting job descriptions from BP, ExxonMobil, Halliburton, Chevron, Royal Dutch Shell, Total, and Anadarko.

Even though I am very happily employed and making an impact in an exciting career that I have been fine-tuning my whole life, I must keep on moving, not unlike a shark.

Citizen Journalism gains status at the Washington Times, meanwhile more big cuts at the big publishers

The Washington Times promotes the  return of citizen journalism. 

 

Now this is what is called freedom of speech. Is this freedom the result of reality shows and especially America Idol? After all, rank amateurs turn out to be very good singers. 

At the same time, the cuts and shutdowns continue.

The Chicago Tribune plans to cut another 20% of its newsroom staff in yet another bid to reduce expenses amid continuing advertising declines.

Staffers were told of the impending layoffs last week, according to three people who attended a meeting on the topic. The cuts will take place over the next several weeks, the sources said.

The expected cuts are the latest attempt to reduce expenses at the paper, whose parent Tribune Co. filed for bankruptcy protection from creditors in December.

The Washington Times’ news gathering is about to become a whole lot bigger as the newspaper launches one full print page per day of news stories reported and written by average citizens in local communities. The citizen journalism project, set to debut Monday,(today) is a new take on a traditional idea.

Community-driven news has been a long mainstay in American newspapers. The Times’ version ramps up the intensity and the outreach, focusing on six communities within the larger Washington area: academia on Monday, the Maryland and Virginia suburbs on Tuesday, the District on Wednesday, local military bases on Thursday, faith communities on Friday and the charitable and the public service community on Sunday. The citizen journalists’ work will be showcased in the A-section as an additional page of Metro coverage and will provide a natural complement to the work of the newspaper’s reporters and editors. “We know there are many issues and communities we have not been able to fully cover within the confines of a newsroom budget, and we are excited to empower citizens within those communities to provide us news that will interest all our readers, ” Executive Editor John Solomon said. “While we are expanding our reach through this project, we will not be diminishing our editorial quality. Citizen stories must meet the same rigorous standards for accuracy, precision, fairness, balance and ethics as those written by our newsroom staff,” Mr. Solomon said. Each citizen journalist is provided a set of rules for their reporting and newswriting, as well as copies of The Times’ policies governing ethics, anonymous sources and other journalistic standards. While the project calls for some first-rate news wranglers, The Times also is tapping into some of its own editorial talent known for its savvy – and heart. Former Editorial Page Editor Deborah Simmons, a veteran newswoman with close ties to the local community, is supervising the coverage for the District, the suburbs, academia, faith and the charitable communities. Longtime Times columnist Adrienne Washington, a staple on local TV and radio, also will be a part of the outreach and the editing. “Deb and Adrienne are pillars within the Washington community and their journalistic prowess, community ties and passion for news are perfectly suited for this project,” Mr. Solomon said. “This is a groundbreaking project, and I’m excited to be on the launching pad. Readers know our bylines. Now we’re flipping the script.” Grace Vuoto, editor of The Times’ new Web property BaseNews.com, will edit the Thursday citizen journalism page on military base news. “Grace is leading the way in providing citizen reports from every military base in the world through BaseNews.com, and the Thursday page is an ideal extension,” Mr. Solomon said. The idea of community journalism in a print format is actually a new take on an old tradition, said Al Tomkins, a media analyst with the Poynter Institute. “Rural and county newspapers, community weeklies – they always had space devoted to the community news, written by someone local. That kind of coverage was and still is incredibly popular,” Mr. Tomkins said. “It takes its inspiration from a simpler time. But it remains an effective way to give a voice to the voiceless.” The new citizen journalism page is one of several changes launched in the past few weeks in The Times’ print edition. By Jennifer Harper | Monday, April 13, 2009

Will the rabble be able to follow the AP stylebook? (I know that is going through many of the “professionals’ minds.”

California dream turning into a nightmare for middle class

California has turned into a high-tax, socialist state where the working middle class has to support millions of illegals and highly paid government employees. The state income tax has now broke the 10 percent barrier. The number of people leaving has for the first time in 70 years outpaced the incoming number, (including illegals).

Nevada, Arizona, California and Florida had the nation’s top foreclosure rates. In Nevada, one in every 70 homes received a foreclosure filing, while the number was one every 147 in Arizona. Rounding out the top 10 were Idaho, Michigan, Illinois, Georgia, Oregon and Ohio.

Among metro areas, Las Vegas was first, with one in every 60 housing units receiving a foreclosure filing. It was followed by the Cape Coral-Fort Myers area in Florida and five California metropolitan areas: Stockton, Modesto, Merced, Riverside-San Bernardino and Bakersfield.

The Scobleizer has written a good blog post on the subject. Scoble is an IT and social media guru in Silicon Valley who often visits Texas. He interviewed the Texas governor, Rick Perry and they Twitter each other. Even after the real estate bubble burst in 2005-06, and homes fell in price by 20 percent each of the last three years, homes are still overpriced and only 10 percent of California  households can afford median-priced homes. Nationally, 50 percent can afford the median-priced home.

The state of California has lost it’s glamorous image. I think of it now as a congested, welfare state with the highest taxes in the United States and the largest “public” workforce to support. Did you know that most of the government employees retire at full pay after 20 years of service?

http://scobleizer.com/2009/03/24/is-california-is-setup-for-a-brain-drain/comment-page-2/#comment-2008731

Joel Kotkin of the SF Chronicle wrote this piece in 2007.

California has been losing ground in the new millennium. In 2004-05, it fell to 17th, behind not only fast-growing Arizona and Nevada but also Oregon, Washington and rival “nation-state” Texas.

Job creation has been even less impressive. In the Bay Area and Los Angeles, it can only be considered mediocre or worse. If not for the strong performance of the interior counties of the state — what Bill Frey and I call the “Third California” — the state already would be rightly considered a laggard when it comes to creating employment.

More disturbing, as California’s population has grown — largely from immigration — per-capita income growth has weakened. From the 1930s to as late as the 1980s, Californians generally got richer faster than other Americans. In 1946, Gunther reported, Californians enjoyed the highest living standards and the third-highest per-capita income in the country.

Today, California ranks 12th in per-capita income. And it’s losing ground: Between 1999 and 2004, California’s per-capita income growth ranked a miserable 40th among the states.

This slow growth reflects a gradually widening chasm between social classes. Although the rest of the country has also experienced this trend, the gap between rich and poor has expanded more rapidly in California than in the rest of the country.

Today, notes a recent study by the Public Policy Institute of California, California has the 15th-highest rate of poverty of all American states. When cost of living adjustments are made, only New York and the District of Columbia fare worse. Tragically, many of California’s poor are working. Somehow, this does not seem the best road to the governor’s dream of a “harmonious” society.

How did this happen to our golden state? There are many causes.

Certainly poverty has been greatly exacerbated by huge waves of immigration, particularly from Mexico and other developing countries. But other states — including Texas and Arizona — have also absorbed many immigrants, as well as people from the rest of this country, and have not experienced similarly strong jumps in their poverty rates.

Changes in the economy are clearly suspect. From the 1930s to the 1980s, California created a broad spectrum of opportunities for white- and blue-collar workers alike. Even the 1990s expansion, suggests Debbie Reed of the policy institute, helped reduce poverty by expanding a wide range of employment opportunities.

Today, economic growth in California — like that in much of the Northeast — seems tilted largely toward elites. Once a state known for its relative social democracy, the Golden State is becoming what Citigroup strategist Ajay Kapur has dubbed a plutonomy, dominated largely by a small wealthy class and their spending.

For example, despite all the hype about the renewed Internet boom in Silicon Valley, there has been only modest expansion of employment, even in the past year. Undoubtedly lavish takings by a relative handful of engineers, managers and investors are boosting high-end restaurateurs in San Francisco and revving up BMW sales, but benefits don’t seem to accrue as much to assemblers, midlevel managers and other high-tech workers.

Similarly, the governor’s entertainment industry friends, as well as art and developer elites close to Mayors Antonio Villaraigosa and Gavin Newsom, may feel these are the best of times. But Los Angeles and San Francisco, along with Monterey, now suffer a poverty rate of more than 20 percent, among the highest level in the country.

Parallel to these developments, California is losing its once broad middle class, the traditional source of its political balance and much of its entrepreneurial genius. Outmigration from the state is growing and, contrary to the notions of some sophisticates, it’s not just the rubes and roughhouses who are leaving.

Indeed, an analysis of the most recent migration numbers shows a disturbing trend: an increasing out-migration of educated people from California’s largest metropolitan areas. Back in the 1990s, this was mostly a Los Angeles phenomena, but since 2000, the Bay Area appears to be suffering a high per-capita outflow of educated people.

This middle class flight is likely driven by two things: greater opportunities outside the state and the cost of housing in-state. Over the past 50 years, housing prices in coastal California in particular have grown much faster than elsewhere; the Bay Area’s rate of housing inflation over the past 50 years has been twice the national average.

Given the shrinking per-capita income advantage for being in California, moving elsewhere increasingly makes sense, particularly for those who do not already own homes and don’t have wealthy parents. In some parts of the state, barely 10 percent of households can now afford a median-price home; in the rest of the country that number is roughly 50 percent.

These trends suggest that California could be devolving toward an unappealing model of class stratification. As educated white-collar and skilled blue-collar workers leave, businesses in the state will be forced to truncate their operations — perhaps having an elite research lab, design office or marketing arm in California but shunting most midlevel jobs elsewhere.

Newspaper editors purged MBAs from management years ago

Newspapers have not been blessed with the best and the brightest managers. Why? The executive editors sabotage real management and have purged MBAs from their ranks. Kill off the competition.

This is from the WSJ Deal Journal column, a Q&A with Mr. Knee, a highly respected  investment consultant

DJ: What would be your advice to newspaper owners?
Knee: You have seen people outsource everything from printing to editorial and indeed, any kind of journalism where your scale in the local community does not provide you with an advantage should be gotten elsewhere. If you find out how many people the large papers sent to the national conventions, you would wonder whether that’s economically justified. You have to focus on your competitive advantage, which is local. When the smoke clears, the local newspaper, which may not be the sexiest part of the newspaper industry but is overwhelmingly the largest and most profitable part of the industry, will be a smaller and more-focused enterprise whose activities will be directed to those areas where their local presence gives them competitive advantage and they will continue to generate as a result better profits than the supersexy businesses in the media industry asking for government or nonprofit help like movies and music.

The newspaper industry has not been blessed with the best managers, and generations of monopoly profits do dull the senses. On the journalism side, I think many managers would rather have avoided a fight with journalists than actually force them to think harder about what their readers want, rather than what they want their readers to want. In the economic environment we’re in, newspapers can’t afford to do every six-part investigative series they could have done before.

Meanwhile, the rank and file newspaper reporters who were busy covering their beats, don’t make much compared to the executive editors. 

Moma don’t let you’re kids grow up to be newspaper reporters. Have them study business, engineering, law or sales, even bar tending would earn them a better living. The executive editors who scratched their way to the top make big bucks for a while, until the host dies from bad management anyway. 

Ever wonder what kind of money the nation’s top newspapers pay their best journalsits? The top rung of the latter is set by the Newspaper Guild. Once you’ve lasted five or six years after about four years at a small daily and tuition of at least $20,000 a year at a respected J-school, this is it.

New York Times pays the most, $1,675.28 a week after two years. But that’s where it stays fixed until the next Guild negotiations. Of course, New York City has the highest cost of living expenses in the U.S.

Reuters pays $1,587.93 a week after six years.

The San Francisco Chronicle pays $1202.24 a week for six years of journalist experience. I know that is top for the Guild scale, but many of the hard workers, who put in more than 38 hours a week get additional pay above scale.

Consumer Reports takes the No. 1 position with $1,80410 a week scale after four years of experience. The union-biased “non-profit” magazine pays more that the New York Times or San Francisco Chronicle for their pro-union advertorial reports on products.

Can new online newspapers chage for its content? Jeff Jarvis of the LA Times says “No!” And he explains himself very well:


How’s that for a direct answer? Every rule has its exceptions — this one only a few: The Wall Street Journal (paid by expense accounts), Consumer Reports (which serves reviews, not news), iTunes (we may play a unique performance over and over, but I don’t read even my articles more than once) and porn (which is suffering the same problem newspapers are thanks to free competition from, uh, amateurs). But the rule of the new, post-scarcity economy is clear: Charging for news online is dangerous folly. Why? Let me count the reasons if not the dollars:

Once news is known, that knowledge is a commodity and it doesn’t matter who first reported it. There’s no fencing off information, especially today, when the conversation that spreads it moves at the speed of links.

There will be no limit to competitors. Readers, like water, will follow the path of least inconvenience. It’s impossible to compete against free. Have papers learned nothing from Craigslist?

In the old-content economy, one could make much money selling many copies of a product. In today’s link economy online, we need only one copy, and it is the links to it that give it value. So rather than complaining that Google should pay them for aggregating their headlines, news organizations should be grateful that Google does not charge for the links it gives and the readers it sends. Indeed, we should be spending our effort figuring out how to get more links to original reporting to support it.

Putting your content behind a wall cuts it off from the conversation and robs it of influence. Just ask New York Times columnists how much they disliked the pay wall the paper finally demolished.

Not all newspapers are going bankrupt. Many, in small monopoly markets are among the most profitable businesses in America with profit margins much higher than oil companies, Apple, EBay, Cisco, Sprint, AT&T, Google or Microsoft.  Gannett has the lion’s share of these markets. And also the highest ratio of MBAs in the media business. 

Sleepless in Seattle — The Post-Intelligencer shuts down — lives online

Last week: The Seattle Post-Intelligencer has told employees they “might” lose their jobs as soon as next week after a deadline for Hearst Corp to sell the newspaper passed last Monday. 

The news is out, the  146-year-old Seattle Post-Intelligencer prints its last edition tomorrow.

The P-I will continue to “live” on the Internet with a much smaller staff.

I like it. It’s a mix of current and archival. Mikey likes it!

http://www.seattlepi.com 

Owner, the Hearst Corp. reports it has failed to find a buyer for the newspaper, which it put up for sale in January after nine years of financial losses. There are no more suckers left with enough trust fund money to waste.

The end of the print edition leaves The Seattle Times as the only major daily newspaper in the city. 

The TV stations will be there tonight and tomorrow capturing the historic day.

Seattle has been counting TV, and now the internet as their favorite news sources. Do you think people will wait for the Seattle Times to find out?

 

 

Last week:

Read between the lines: Boxes for removing personal items and shredding bins are scheduled to be delivered to the PI floors this week.

Clues suggest Hearst plans to close the P-I shortly

Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports on its own demise
Just after Hearst spokesman Paul Luthringer claimed that “we are still evaluating our options,” Post-Intelligencer staffers learned that boxes and bins are scheduled to be delivered to the newsroom later this week — some for materials to be taken home, others for notes that require shredding. “It would be nice to have some clarity,” says business reporter Joseph Tartakoff. “It’s really hard to plan your work when you’re not sure if you’ll be around the next day.”

The New York Times sold off the majority of its new sky scraper in New York and has a long-term rent agreement. The company no longer owns the roof over its head.

Next, McClatchy announced massive layoffs, and Hearst’s Seattle PI is about to turn into a shadow, online only edition. Meanwhile, back at Hearst’s figurative flagship, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Media Guild has accepted big cuts just to keep most jobs. The Denver Rocky Mountain News shut down a week or so ago. 

McClatchy Co. is shearing another 1,600 jobs in a cost-cutting spree that has clipped nearly one-third of the newspaper publisher’s work force in less than a year.

The latest reduction in payroll announced Monday follows through on the Sacramento-based company’s previously disclosed plans to lower its expenses by as much as $110 million over the next year as its revenue evaporates amid a devastating recession.

The layoffs will start before April. No fooling.

 Several of McClatchy’s 30 daily newspapers, including The Sacramento Bee and The Kansas City Star, already have decided how many workers will be shown the door. Close to 2,000. 

 

Pew Research report
Just 43 percent  of Americans say that losing their local newspaper would hurt civic life in their community “a lot,” according to a Pew Research poll. And even fewer, only 33 percent say they will miss their local newspaper if it folds.

Back to the West Coast

Negotiators for the Guild and the San Francisco Chronicle reached a tentative agreement Monday night changes to the collective bargaining agreement in line with cost cuts planned by Hearst. 

The agreement will require approval by Chronicle Unit Guild members. (They will approve or lose their jobs wholesale). 

A ratification meeting will be scheduled as early as Thursday of this week. Time and place will be announced on Tuesday as soon as a large enough facility can be secured.

In view of the latest terms agreed today, the Guild Negotiating Committee recommends membership approval.

The terms reached late Monday include expanded management ability to lay off employees without regard to seniority. All employees who are discharged in a layoff or who accept voluntary buyouts are guaranteed two weeks’ pay per year of service up to a maximum of one year, plus company-paid health care for the severance term, even in the event of a shutdown – which today’s agreement is designed to avoid.

Guild membership will remain a condition of continued employment for all employees. However, new hires in certain advertising sales positions will be given the option of membership, even though they will retain Guild protection under the contract.

On-callers will be limited to no more than 10 percent in any classification or department.

Pension changes are not part of this agreement, but are being discussed by pension authorities and must be implemented under terms of the Pension Protection Act, due to the recent declines in investment markets. Because those changes may affect the decisions of many members concerning buyouts, we are attempting to reach some key understandings now as to the nature of the changes and when they will take effect.

A lunch-hour meeting on Wednesday March 11, with our pension plan’s lawyer will be held at the Guild Office, 433 Natoma, Third Floor Conference Room.

A bulletin summarizing all the proposed contract changes will be issued Tuesday. A set of the complete proposed amendments will be available on the Guild’s Web site (mediaworkers.org) as soon as possible.

Management is seeking to change the union contract as part of an attempt to cut costs and keep the paper operating under the ownership of the Hearst Corp.

The company said Feb. 24 it would sell or close the paper unless the Guild agreed to changes in the labor agreement in effect through June 2010.

The leaders in the former cash cow industry thought they could just transform to their pages of expensive advertising to Web pages. Sorry. The Web is very competitive and readers will not put up with page after page of ads to follow the news. 

McClatchy is down for the count. The stock is hovering below $1 and will soon be kicked out of the New York Stock Exchange. 

The The Sun of Myrtle Beach and the  Macon Telegraph — McClatchy papers, announced last week that they were outsourcing printing, they joined what one experts are calling the last stage of the dying industry.

Chuck Moozakis, editor-in-chief of Newspapers & Technology, found in a December survey piece that the flight from printing includes mid-sized papers like the two last week, small papers, but also very big ones like the San Francisco Chronicle. Dow Jones has already closed plants in Denver and Chicago and could shutter 10 of the 17 around the country that have printed The Wall Street Journal.

 
“There is a lot of iron sitting out there now,” Moozkis reported.  
“What’s more sobering is the amount of press capacity now available within operations with relatively new presses” like Detroit and Denver. Losing the Rocky Mountain News press run — when it closes (not if) — won’t help, and some of the same impact will come as the two Detroit papers have reduced distribution of a smaller print product most weekdays.
 
 The carbon footprint of newspapers is enormous. At least the unemployed “progressives” can be happy that they are no longer contributing to the worst global warming industry on the planet. 

The funny thing, the Rocky didn’t know it was on life support for the last 10 years

The JOAs have just prolonged the death of failing newspapers. It’s time to pull the plug.

 

They fancy themselves literary geniuses, some of them do, when they are merely expert at the craft of certain formula which bear little relation to communicating with readers at the highest level. Or they fancy themselves tough-nosed reporters simply because they work in Chicago, and wail about the (falsely alleged) error rates of valuable tools like Wikipedia, without having even gone through the fact-checking process of a typical monthly magazine that will humble any newspaper reporter within minutes (trust me, I know).

The industry is still discussing inverted pyramids instead of the art of the link and how it changes the narrative structure of what we do.

Please die already. — The Beachwoodreporter.com.

Chronicle’s chronic losses lead to major cuts at the Bay Area’s largest newspaper — papers coast-to-coast cutting staff

The San Francisco Chronicle ready for some major “right sizing.”

After some more streamlining in addition to a new printing process off site, the largest newspaper in Northern California should begin to be profitable again.  

In a posted statement, Hearst said if the savings cannot be accomplished “quickly” the company will seek a buyer, and if none comes forward, it will close the Chronicle. The Chronicle lost more than $50 million in 2008 and is on a pace to lose more than that this year, Hearst said.

Frank J. Vega, chairman and publisher of the Chronicle, said, “It’s just a fact of life that we need to live within our means as a newspaper – and we have not for years.”

Vega said plans remain on track for the June 29 transition to new presses owned and operated by Canadian-based Transcontinental Inc., which will give the Chronicle industry-leading color reproduction. That move will save a few million annually due to the reduction of highly paid pressmen.

If the reductions can be accomplished, Vega said, “We are optimistic that we can emerge from this tough cycle with a healthy and vibrant Chronicle.”

The company did not specify the size of the staff reductions or the nature of the other cost-savings measures it has in mind. The company said it will immediately seek discussions with the Northern California Media Workers Guild, Local 39521, and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local 853, which represent the majority of workers at the Chronicle.

“Because of the sea change newspapers everywhere are undergoing and these dire economic times, it is essential that our management and the local union leadership work together to implement the changes necessary to bring the cost of producing the Chronicle into line with available revenue,” Frank A. Bennack, Jr., Hearst vice chairman and chief executive, and Steven R. Swartz, president of Hearst Newspapers, said in a joint statement.

From the Newsosaur:

SF Chron cost-cut target equals 47% of staff

If the San Francisco Chronicle had to slash enough payroll to offset the more than $50 million operating loss threatening its future, nearly half of its 1,500 employees would be dismissed.

That’s the magnitude of the challenge facing the managers and union representatives who were tasked today by Hearst Corp. to find a way to cut the paper’s mushrooming deficit – or else.

After losing more than $1 billion without seeing a dime of profit since purchasing the paper in 2000, the Hearst Corp. today threatened to sell or close the Chronicle if sufficient savings were not identified to staunch operating losses surpassing $1 million a week. Without significant cost reductions, the losses would accelerate this year as a result of the ailing economy, said Michael Keith, a spokesman for the paper.

To wipe out a $50 million loss, let alone make a profit, the paper would have to eliminate 47% of its entire staff

Meanwhile, on the East Coast:

The latest Hartford Courant (former Times-Mirror newspaper) layoffs were announced last night – political reporter Mark Pazniokas is among those cut from the newspaper. We’ve been told these names as well – please correct us if we have anything wrong: Jesse Hamilton of the Washington bureau,  Religion Reporter Elizabeth Hamilton, Business Reporter Robin Stansbury, Environment Reporter David Funkhouser, reporters  Steve Grant and Anna Marie Somma, sportswriter Matt Eagan,  itowns editor Loretta Waldman, itowns reporter Nancy Lastrina, administrative assistant Judy Prato, Marge Ruschau, Features copy editors Adele Angle and David Wakefield, and library staffer & researcher Owen Walker.

We’re told that editor/reporter Kate Farrish resigned earlier this week as did editor John Ferraro.

Denis Horgan is calling it the Mardi Gras Massacre.

Paul Bass has more in the New Haven Independent.

Now, back to Texas:

Memo from San Antonio Express-News’ editor

From: Rivard, Robert
Sent: Wednesday, February 25, 2009 10:44 AM
To: SAEN Editorial
Subject: We are canceling this morning’s news meeting for obvious reasons.

Colleagues:

By now you have read Tom Stephenson’s message to all employees. Every division of the Express-News will be affected, including every department in the newsroom. Incremental staff and budget cuts, we are sorry to say, have proven inadequate amid changing social and market forces now compounded by this deepening recession.

It is not lost on us as journalists in this difficult moment that we have built an audience of readers, in print and online, that is larger and more diverse than at any time in our century and half of publishing. We have done that at the Express-News through a commitment to excellence and public service. Now we must find ways to maintain these high levels of journalistic distinction even as valued colleagues depart. It is an unfortunate but undeniable fact that declining advertising revenues are insufficient to support our operations at current levels. At the same time, more and more people have become accustomed to reading us at no cost on the Internet. As a result, we are reducing the newsroom staff by some 75 positions, counting layoffs and open positions we are eliminating.

As a first step to securing our future and continuing to serve the community, we are undergoing a fundamental and painful restructuring of the newsroom staff. We will have fewer departments and fewer managers, and yes, fewer of every class of journalist. After we reorganize and consolidate additional operations with the Houston Chronicle, we will then turn to finding new ways to create and present the journalism we know is vital to the city and the region. There is every indication the community we serve recognizes our importance and wants the Express-News to succeed.

The newsroom leadership team will begin now to meet with individuals whose jobs are being eliminated. Brett Thacker and I are working with these editors to carry out such notifications as swiftly and humanely as possible. No one is being asked to leave the Express-News today unless you so choose. March 20 will be the final day for those whose jobs are being cut, at which time they will then receive involuntary separation packages that include two weeks’ pay for each year of service up to one year’s pay, along with other benefits. Some production journalists involved in the consolidation project with the Houston Chronicle will be asked to stay on until that project is completed in the coming months. Those who do stay until the completion will receive their separation packages at that time.

We have worked to preserve the size and depth of our newsroom in every imaginable way these past months and years, but events beyond our control have overwhelmed those efforts. Newsrooms become like families, but companies in every industry reach a point where they face fundamental, sometimes harsh change in order to preserve their viability. We are at that point. Most of you read yesterday’s news regarding the San Francisco Chronicle and recently became aware of pending staff cuts at the Houston Chronicle. Our intention is to get through these difficult days and work to remain an indispensible source of news and information through the recession and beyond.

Hearst purchased the Chronicle in 2000, but soon afterward felt the impact of an economic downturn in the dot.com sector as well as the loss of classified advertising to Craigslist and other online sites. The problems have been exacerbated by the current recession.

In the news release, the privately-held, New York-based company said that the Chronicle has had “major losses” since 2001.

Back on the West Coast, there is no safe haven.

Sacramento Guild bracing for job cuts

Woe is us, McClatchy warns

Media Workers Guild – 12 Feb 2009

Sacramento Bee employees should expect a serious wave of layoffs in early March, as well as other cost-cutting measures now being considered, including wage cuts and mandatory furloughs as McClatchy Newspapers’ financial crisis worsens, company representatives told the Guild’s bargaining committee in a 90-minute session Thursday.

Mercury Bargaining Bulletin 9

 

Mercury News wants $1.5 million cut from wages and benefits

 

California Media Workers Guild – 10 Feb 2009

Mercury News negotiators said Tuesday they need to find $1.5 million by cutting wages and benefits paid to Guild members annually in the face of the economic woes facing the company. The company’s announcement came at a bargaining session Tuesday that kicked off an effort by management and the Guild to expedite the process of reaching a new contract to replace the one that expired October 31.

“Given the losses the Chronicle continues to sustain, the time to implement these changes cannot be long. These changes are designed to give the Chronicle the best possible chance to survive this economic downturn and continue to serve the people of the Bay Area with distinction, as it has since 1865,” Bennack and Swartz said in their statement.

“Survival is the outcome we all want to achieve,” they added. “But without specific changes we are seeking across the entire Chronicle organization, we will have no choice but to quickly seek a buyer for the Chronicle, and, should a buyer not be found, to shut down the newspaper.”

The Hearst statement further said that cost reductions are part of a broader effort to restore the Chronicle to financial health. At the beginning of the year, the Chronicle raised its prices for home delivery and single-copy purchases.

Hearst owns 15 other newspapers including the Houston Chronicle, San Antonio News-Express and the Albany Times-Union in New York . Hearst announced Jan. 9 that in March that if a buyer is not found it will close Seattle Post-Intelligencer, which has lost money since 2000.

Vega said readers and advertisers will see no difference in the Chronicle during the discussions with the unions.

“Even with the reduction in workforce, our goal will be to retain our essential and well-read content,” Vega said. “We will continue to produce the very best newspaper for our readers and preserve one of San Francisco ‘s oldest and most important institutions.”

The Chronicle, the Bay Area’s largest and oldest newspaper, is read by more than 1.6 million people weekly. It also operates SFGate, among the nation’s 10 largest news Web sites. SFGate depends on the Chronicle’s print news staff for much its content.

The San Francisco Bay Area is home to 21 daily newspapers covering an 11-county area.

The Chronicle’s news staff of about 275, even after a series of reductions in recent years, is the largest of any newspaper in the Bay Area.

“While the reductions are an unfortunate sign of the times, the news staff has always been resilient in San Francisco ,” said Ward Bushee, editor and executive vice president. “We remain fully dedicated toward serving our readers with an outstanding newspaper. We are playing to win.”

The area’s other leading newspapers – the Bay Area Media News Group that includes the San Jose Mercury News, Contra Costa Times and Oakland Tribune – also have seen revenues decline sharply and cut staff.

These problems are a reflection of those faced by newspapers across America as they experience fundamental changes in their business model brought on by rapid growth in readership on free internet sites, a decline in paid circulation, the erosion of advertising and rising costs.

Advertising traditionally has offset the cost of producing and delivering a newspaper, which allowed publishers to charge readers substantially less than the actual cost of doing business. The loss of advertising has undermined that pricing model.

In the case of the Chronicle, Vega said the expense of producing and delivering the newspaper to a seven-day subscriber is more than double the $7.75 weekly cost to subscribe.

At the beginning of the year, in an effort to evolve its business model and offset its substantial losses, the Chronicle raised its subscription and newsstand prices, taking a cue from European papers that charge far more than their American counterparts.

“We know that people in this community care deeply about the Chronicle,” Vega said. “In today’s world, the Chronicle is still very inexpensive. This is a critical time and we deeply hope our readers will stick with us.”

The challenge the Chronicle faces, Vega said, is to bring its revenues from advertising and circulation into balance with its expenses so that the newspaper can at least break even financially.

“We are asking our unions to work with us as partners in making these difficult cost-cutting decisions and reduction in force to ensure the newspaper survives,” Vega said.

Michael Savage will have some candid comments on the layoffs. What about the content of the Chronicle’s “news?”

The union reps “negotiate” their fate:

Cost-Cutting Talks Begin – 

Guild leaders met with representatives from The Chronicle and Hearst Corp. this morning to discuss the company’s cost-cutting proposal.

We opened the meeting by underscoring our commitment to our membership and the community to do all we can to reach an agreement that will keep The Chronicle open and return it to profitability.

The company seeks a combination of wide-ranging contractual concessions in addition to layoffs, the exact number of which the company said it did not yet have. For Guild-covered positions, the company did say the job cuts would at least number 50. Other proposals include removal of some advertising sales people from Guild coverage and protection, the right to outsource — specifically mentioning Ad Production — voluntary buyouts, layoffs and wage freezes. 

We plan to closely analyze this proposal over the next few days and explore every possible alternative. Meetings will be held to discuss details with members of the bargaining unit. An informational membership meeting will be held from 5-7 p.m.tonight (Tuesday Feb. 25) at the Guild office, 3rd floor conference room.

Management reiterated its commitment to keeping The Chronicle open and to working with the Guild to secure a viable future. Despite the difficult economic environment, we are confident that by working together we can find solutions to any problems that confront us.

If you have any questions or suggestions, contact your shop steward or e-mail Unit Chair Michelle Devera, Local President Mike Cabanatuan or Unit Secretary Alissa Van Cleave.

In solidarity,

Michelle Devera, Chronicle Unit chair, michelleatsfchronunit@gmail.com
Michael Cabanatuan, Local President, ctuan@aol.com
Alissa Van Cleave, Chronicle Unit secretary, vancelave44@hotmail.com
Wally Greenwell, Chronicle Unit vice chair
Gloria La Riva, president, Typographical Sector
Carl Hall, Local Representative