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. 
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What is the newspaper model? When did it break? Who really cares?

McClatchy’s stock is worth a gallon of gas, about $4.50. Think about that the next time you fill up.  Even the New York Times total assets are worth no more than its new building and the stock has no voting rights. A bargain at $13? You think?

 

As the pink slips fly this summer at the old, elite daily newspapers from coast to coast, I continue to hear editors say “the model is broken.” That’s a tip that they know not what they do. Corporations don’t call operational or marketing plans models. Businesses run on plans, financial reports including daily sales, expenses, industry trends, local trends and regroup when “off plan.” There is always Plan B.

Now a columnist at the Poynter Institute, the non-profit think tank created by Nelson Poynter to continue the St. Pete/Clearwater Times past his death (and keep the company operational after the Democrats’ death taxes), is saying this is a good time to buy newspaper stock. Not so much.

McClatchy’s stock is worth a gallon of gas, about $4.50. Think about that the next time you fill up.  Even the New York Times total assets are worth no more than its new building and the stock has no voting rights. A bargain at $13? You think?

But before you make a play at any of these stocks, remember the ancient Chinese saying, “Do not try and catch a falling knife.”

What is a newspaper worth? Compare it to an airline. Both industries have major payrolls, they are labor intensive, service businesses and both have major fuel costs. (Yeah, boys on bicycles don’t deliver papers anymore). Add newsprint to the newspaper costs.

Airlines sell seats. Newspapers sell space.

The airlines have business travelers and summertime vacationers. They have not lost any business class revenue and have done well with family fares because it is cheaper to fly than drive this summer. An airline can just cut back on less popular destinations. Keep the plane behind schedule and get a few more seats filled.

Newspaper revenue comes from advertising. They sell pages or column inches of advertising space instead of seats. But the newspaper planes take off every morning. They are flying the planes with a lot of empty seats.

The newspapers are run by the editors and sub-editors. Are airlines run by the flight attendants and pilots? I think not. Well, one is in a way. It’s not doing very well.

Advertising revenue is filling up the seats of the new online airbuses: Google, Yahoo, Drudgereport and Craigslist, with targeted advertising buys. The new online media has attractive “destinations:” young, well-educated middle class.

The newspapers destinations are not so hot. Think of 70 year olds in black socks, sandles and checker shorts, sitting at a park in Cleveland. “Wish you were still here.”

Not a pretty picture.

Newspaper journalists go the way of railroad engineers

With thousands of newspaper reporters and editors getting pink slips this summer, it’s time to think of the future for the once honorable profession. I predict that the practice of newspaper journalism will become a hobby for old timers.

They will form “guilds” and get together to discuss the days when they had a hand in bringing down presidents and most members of the Republican party. The fun they had trashing the military, mocking MBAs and smearing corporate CEOs — good times! Meanwhile, they helped rewrite history, making heroes of Jimmy Carter, Al Gore, Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro.

Not unlike model railroad enthusiasts, retirees who waste away hours building mini cities with lichen evergreen trees and molded plastic mountains, old journos will have artifacts displayed around their rent-protected apartments, posters of Che, old typewriters, Green T-shirts, famous front pages of newspapers like “BUSH WINS!” printed before the Florida recount, they still don’t realize the headline was right, Bush did win and the Democrat party in Dade and Palm Beach counties tried to count bumps and chads as votes, while they discounted votes from resident military.

Former journalists will be semi-retired, working as greeters at Wal-Mart or sales associates at Borders Books. Those will be the better day jobs. Some will have blogs with readership in the dozens rather than tens of thousands they had in their hay days.

They can pretend to put out daily editions with DVDs playing classics like “The Front Page,” “All the President’s Men,” and episodes of “Lou Grant.”

Some will retain their journalist title by writing freelance for the local alternative press or if they are really good, the surviving monopoly big city newspaper that puts out a free tabloid addition once a week to augment its online daily edtions ‘Updated by the Minute’ will be one of their promotions.

“Pass me some prunes with sea grass, Debbie! Let’s write some sidebars on tips to avoid global warming.” “Wasn’t it grand that we saved Anwar from the gluttonous oil companies?” “Gas is $8 a gallon now as it is in Europe.” “America has finally matured.”

“I walk to the corner co-op for groceries anyway; that’s the way it should be.”

“I’m sure thankful Obama saved our Social Security…”

— Mick Gregory