Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Spring is sprung (almost) but print media is still frozen

Happy St. Patrick's Day to our Irish friends. To everyone else, welcome to the continuing paper print media funeral.

I've been busy working at the New Haven Independent, one of the forward-looking news media that, one hopes, will be the future of what we now call print journalism.  That and being sick kept me away from my favorite blog. To all of you who checked in from time to time, thanks. I'll try not to stay away so long. And yes, I feel much better. 

This has not been a good month or so for print journalism. You already know the Rocky (Denver's former Rocky Mountain News) has closed, leaving Denver a one-newspaper town. Now, Seattle's P-I, the Post-Intelligencer, has published its last print edition, leaving this great city with but one newspaper and an on-line publication.

I just sent a nasty note to the folks at Helium, which started out as a blogging site, much like the Blogspot that hosts this posting. 

They are soliciting contributions of opinion on various issues from amateurs. The latest was an issue in Fairfield (the solicitation mentioned a Fairfield County Board of Education which, of course, does not exist.) I got back a note, saying they are not displacing journalists, but just asking for opinions from citizens. The Independent has room for opinions at the end of stories. The Independent doesn't need a firm to solicit those opinions. 

The folks at Helium think they are not hurting journalists. They are wrong.

With the goings on at Journal-Register and 48 people taking a buyout at the Hearst newspapers in Connecticut (Bridgeport, Stamford, Greenwich, Danbury and some weeklies). To take a buyout in this market is an act of desperation, brought about by two things.

I write about this from first-person experience, having taken such a buyout from Gannett, couched as an early retirement plan.

First, you take it because you realize that if you don't take the buyout, when the inevitable layoffs come, your name will be first on the hit parade. You realize that the incentives to sweeten the offer are, in all probability, much better than the parting gifts you will get with a real layoff.

Second, you realize that the place for which you are working is not even remotely the place at which you came to work years before. The management has changed, the strategies have changed, the things that were important to you are not important to management.

You signed on to improve your little piece of the world. That's not important to your bosses now. Money is.

The sad thing is you are forced to make the decision yourself. In my case, it was easy. The offer was really good, and the place for which I worked was run by people who did not see the newspaper the way I did. It doesn't make them bad people. Not in my case. 

I had worked for the New Haven Register and the Journal-Courier. They were fine newspapers with dedicated, talented journalists. The New Haven Register still has dedicated, talented writers, editors and photographers. 

I also know some of the people who work for Hearst, especially in Bridgeport. They are talented and dedicated as well. And, I would guess, some of them will be unemployed a month from now.

I wish them all the luck there is. 

Until next time...

1 comment:

Rev said...

Amen.

Glad you're feeling better, Len, and, as always, it's good to have you back on the blog.

Things are not looking too bright for the Tucson (Arizona) Citizen, which Gannett has threatened to close by March 21 if a suitable buyer is not found. Here's the latest from www.gannettblog.blogspot.com :

The Citizen will be published on a day-to-day basis while negotiations on a possible sale continue with the two buyers, the Tucson paper is now reporting. It's unclear whether the bidders would seek to operate the afternoon paper as a web-only news site; Gannett has reportedly required that any buyer run the Citizen as a print paper.

The Citizen is in a joint-operating agreement, apparently controlled by Lee Enterprises. The agency handles circulation and other business functions for the Citizen and Lee's morning Arizona Daily Star. There are two competing newsrooms; the Citizen employs fewer than 80 Gannett employees. When it put the paper on the auction block, Gannett said it would keep its stake in the JOA, and its share of the profits.