Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Déjà vu

Our friends north of the border are now experiencing what thousands of Gannett employees went through just a few weeks ago.

Sun Media, Canada's largest newspaper publisher with operations in Toronto, Ottawa, Edmonton and elsewhere, announced Tuesday that it is cutting 10 percent of its workforce as a result of "harsh economic conditions," per the Canadian Press.

That amounts to some 600 layoffs, proving that the newspaper industry's troubles are not just limited to the United States.

The CP quoted Sun Media CEO Pierre Karl Peladeau as saying in a release: "The news industry is being revolutionized and we have to adapt if we want to remain an industry leader."

Similar to the independent Gannett Blog, which chronicled the Gannett cuts, the Toronto Sun Family blog is telling the story of these latest media layoffs.

According to the Toronto blog, President of the Southern Ontario Newsmedia Guild Brad Honywill said of the layoffs: "I don't think Toronto's, or, for that matter, North America's, media landscape will look the same after this recession. We're going through a fundamental shift that will result in fewer sources of news and less and less depth."

Honywill continued, "Increasingly, stories will be shared across chains, diminishing local voices [...] So these cutbacks represent a real loss to the community and to our democracy."

It's so sad to see the newspaper industry come to all of this, and I feel deeply for all Canadians affected by these cuts. I have a particularly close eye on all things Canada with my paternal grandfather's family being from there, and having many cousins in the country still. This hurts.

Once again, we can blame the economy in terms of how rapid this media collapse has been. However, this was bound to happen eventually - the economy is just speeding up the process. It's a new world out there with the Internet, and so much free content available to consumers online. The need for a new business model is more urgent now than ever before. Now is the time for the news industry to act.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

NPR announces layoffs

Add National Public Radio to an ever-growing list of American companies cutting back expenses and laying off workers due to the current economic crisis.

The recession has left no business, including NPR, "exempt" from being affected, NPR interim president and CEO Dennis Haarsager said today in a statement.

Two NPR programs, Day to Day and News and Notes, will go off the air in the next few months as a result of the cuts.

A total of 64 employees will be laid off. Twenty-one positions currently vacant will not be filled.

The company will still have "more than 800 employees on staff, including about 300 journalists," according to the NPR release.

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Friday, December 5, 2008

Motown Mystery

While there's been plenty of chatter about the Gannett layoffs this week, everywhere from the blogosphere to many of the affected newspapers' Web sites, it's been eeriely quiet in Detroit.

Gannett's Detroit Free Press never reported any layoffs on its Web site, even though it was among the papers expected to make cuts. Corporate's deadline of Thursday, Dec. 4 for action to occur came and went, and still, no official word out of Detroit.

The Free Press has had no shortage of economic issues to report on, just a few hours ago reporting that General Motors will lay off 2,000 employees at three factories, including one in Michigan, but it's been mum on itself.

Rumors are swirling. According to an anonymous comment at the independent Gannett Blog, 14 Detroit Media Partnership workers were laid off today, and the Free Press specifically will be making cuts in the next few days. Another anonymous user at the same blog notes that the DMP (Free Press and News ownership) may begin publishing primarily online.

While most Gannett papers are profitable (apparently not enough for corporate but that's another story), there's been plenty of speculation that Detroit is largely in the red. Things aren't getting any easier with the auto industry woes and other economic problems in Motown.

While I don't have any inside knowledge on this situation, something's definitely up, in my opinion. And it's not good. It will be interesting to see what decisions are made by Gannett when it comes to Detroit. It may rely heavily on Motown's hopes that the government passes an auto industry bailout. Something to keep an eye on.

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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Doomsday on the horizon

Gannett will carry out the majority of its 3,000 lay offs tomorrow. With the exception of a few, it appears (reading the accounts at the independent Gannett Blog) most of the affected employees still have no idea at this hour whether they'll survive the latest round of cuts.

This was my company. I worked with the Sports Dept. at the Gannett's Democrat and Chronicle in Rochester, N.Y. from Oct. 2006 to April 2008. I loved it there. I loved serving the people of Rochester. I loved the newsroom environment. My heart, thoughts, and prayers go out to everyone at the D&C on this night. Everyone at Gannett for that matter.

Former Gannett employee Paul Oberjuerge nails the situation in his blog tonight:
"At some point, Gannett should have remembered it was a media company, a newspaper company, with all the First Amendment privileges and responsibilities that brings. It could have and should have spent more on its newspaper products and tried to scrape by on, oh, 20-25 percent profit."

God be with everyone at this time. Gannett is making a big mistake here. Laying off employees is not the answer, especially after how many it's laid off already. Morale is as low as ever at its newspapers, I know people at several of them. The greedy leaders of this company will pay for this in the long run. Justice will be served.

And journalism won't die. Gannett's place as a leader in American journalism is quickly fading. Quicker than I can even type.

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Saturday, August 16, 2008

Tribune Co. cuts as well

Gee, what gives? On Thursday it was Gannett and on Friday the Tribune Co. eliminated 40 newsroom positions from the Chicago Tribune. It's the second cut of 40 employees in the last few weeks, so 80 total have been let go this month.

These job cuts were expected - the company announced they were coming in July - but at least 10 more people than anticipated have been laid off, according to Chicago Business.

Here's a troubling stat: The Chicago Tribune had 670 employees in 2005, but it is now down to just 480, according to the Tribune report sourced above. That's a drop of more than 28 percent of the workforce.

My take: it certainly isn't good news for the company, but as stated earlier, this development was expected. However, coupled with the Gannett news from Thursday, it's definitely a very difficult week for newspapers to say the least. If cutbacks continue at this pace, you have to wonder at what point the quality starts dropping significantly at these publications. It will be interesting to see what happens in the coming months.

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Friday, August 15, 2008

Gannett cutting 1,000 jobs

Some sad news was announced yesterday by my former employer. Gannett, the nation's largest newspaper publisher, is cutting 1,000 jobs across its U.S. Community Publishing Division. I worked for the company from Oct. 2006 to April 2008.

The details for the cuts are sketchy, but I did some poking around the Web and it looks like The Tennessean in Nashville and Cincinnati Enquirer will be the hardest hit, each eliminating 50 positions. Here's some of the other losses I was able to find online today:

-Tucson Citizen, Ariz.: 30 jobs
-Des Moines Register, Iowa: 26 jobs
-Indianapolis Star, Ind.: 23 jobs
-Louisville Courier-Journal, Ky.: 15 jobs
-St. Cloud Times, Minn.: 12 jobs
-Democrat and Chronicle, N.Y.: 11 jobs
-Mansfield/Bucyrus/Marion papers, Ohio: 9 jobs
-Appleton Post-Crescent, Wisc.: 8 jobs
-Green Bay Press-Gazette, Wisc.: 8 jobs
-Tallahassee Democrat, Fla.: 8 jobs
-Newark Advocate, Ohio: 6 jobs
-Chillicothe Gazette, Ohio: 3 jobs
-Muncie Star Press, Ind: 2 jobs
-Pensacola News Journal, Fla.: 2 jobs

Apparently, the Detroit Free-Press and USA Today will be unaffected. No word yet on other newspapers at this time, as far as I can find. If a lot more numbers come out later, I may update this post or post a new entry with that information.

This news follows up the Atlanta Journal-Constitution cutting nearly 200 jobs and the Wall Street Journal eliminating 50 positions last month. Besides Gannett, the Tribune Company, McClatchy, and Cox are among the major media players that have also been suffering lately.

What does it all mean? It seems to me that it mostly has to do with pleasing the shareholders, which is sad. That's one of the problems with big business overseeing a bundle of local-oriented publications. And newspapers across the nation are feeling the effects, as are journalists across the country. Ultimately, the news will end up suffering and that's a very scary part about all of this.

The cuts in one sense aren't a surprise though. The 2008 State of the News Media report on Newspapers put it this way: "As for cuts, the end of 2007 and the beginning of 2008 are shaping up as a time of you-ain't-seen-nothin'-yet." The report continues, "As one executive, ordered by headquarters to plan a fresh round of newsroom cuts for 2008 told us, 'I'm past bleeding - we're into amputation now."

Things may continue to get worse before they get better. It'll be interesting to keep an eye on this.

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