Thursday, March 26, 2009
Newspaper industry suffers a very bad week
Politico.com assesses the week for the American newspaper industry as going from bad to worse, with major cutbacks at the nation's franchise newspapers.
These new announcements are quite ironic considering Tennessean editor Mark Silverman's column on Sunday that the industry was doing just fine. So much for his credibility as an honest analyst.
The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal all took hits and The Christian Science Monitor will be publishing its last print edition. In addition, staffers at the WSJ learned that they would be judged by the breaking news they produce for the WSJ wire and not the days and week dedicated to projects.
Is it Friday yet?
For staffers at The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal, this week can’t end soon enough.
On Monday, news broke that The Wall Street Journal was losing two top investigative reporters. On Tuesday, President Barack Obama snubbed reporters from the big dailies at his primetime press conference. On Wednesday, Washington Post Co. Chairman Donald Graham signaled to shareholders that 2009 would be worse than the previous year.
On Thursday, the Times and the Post announced broad cost-cutting measures and plans for reductions in staff. And Friday will bring the final print edition of the Christian Science Monitor.
The Times handed out pink slips Thursday morning to about 100 staffers on the paper’s business side.
For those Times staffers who didn’t get the ax, there was still unpleasant news in memo form: a 5 percent pay cut beginning in April. The consolation: Staffers will now receive an additional 10 days off annually.
In a memo to staff, New York Times Co. Chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr. and CEO Janet Robinson wrote that the “economic outlook and the changes occurring in the media business” were forcing the company to “take even more steps to lower costs.”
At the Post, Graham offered a similarly grim view.
"The familiar problems of the newspaper industry — declining readership and the loss of classified — are now made worse by bankrupt advertisers," Graham wrote in a letter to shareholders on Wednesday. "The newspaper will lose substantial money in 2009. Some will be non-cash accelerated depreciation because we will be closing a printing plant. Most will be real losses."
Given expectations of a “substantial” loss, few were surprised when the paper’s top brass — Post publisher Katharine Weymouth and executive editor Marcus Brauchli — notified staff that they’d be offering another voluntary buyout package. It’s the fourth time since 2003 that the Post has offered buyouts.
Edward Atorino, a media analyst with Benchmark Co., said the cutbacks at the Times and Post “reinforc[e] the fact that business is getting worse, not better.”