Category Archives: Industry News

An Untimely Death

Wolff at Conference Predicts ‘Death of Newspapers’ — Adds It’s Not So Bad

NEW ORLEANS — Delivering the Thursday keynote at the annual E&P/Mediaweek Interactive Conference in New Orleans today, Michael Wolff — Vanity Fair columnist, Murdoch biographer and Newser.com founder — again predicted the “death of newspapers,” adding that he’d been having “fun” pushing the proposition in recent months to the point of being considered a “Dr. Doom.”

Newspapers “not only will go away but they should go away,” he said, adding that today’s talk would “cap” his statements and then he would “never speak of the death of newspapers again.”

He said that newspapers going away would not be a bad thing and might even be a great thing, with replacements promising to more than fill the news role and hole. The problem, he admitted, was a financial model.

“So, how to turn this into a business?” he asked. “What is the next step for all of us? The answer is uncertain.” But he proposed: “To make it work we need really, really, really large audiences.” What he called “television size,” maybe 50 million for a few sites.

What he sees coming and needed are giant “networks” — a few major Internet players, like the TV networks with tens of millions of users.

He repeatedly said that those who worry about the valuable work of newspapers going away are overstating the case, and should look at newspapers with a “cold eye.” Few papers, he said, do such work nowadays and can be replaced by networks of bloggers, local or niche experts and journalists. He called a column earlier this week arguing the case for newspapers by The New York Times’ David Carr “completely idiotic, fatuous … Biblical.”

He declared flatly that “no one” reads newspapers anymore, even though actually, tens of millions still do. And they even pay for it.

Wolff noted that he has a strong newspaper background himself: His mother worked at a New Jersey daily, and his father sold ads to papers. Wolff started his career in newspapers, and so did his daughter. But he said his arguments months ago that newspapers would disappear from many major cities is now “conventional wisdom.”

-Greg Mitchell, Editor & Publisher

Furlough Food

The grievous news came last Monday, as the Entourage of Death — publisher, editor, advertising and HR directors — descended upon our tiny newspaper staff. Ten-day furlough, they said. 

Earlier that morning, the Ann Arbor News announced it would close, and three other Michigan dailies — The Bay City Times, The Flint Journal and The Saginaw News — announced they were scaling back to 3 days a week. Considering all that and other bad news in the industry, our staff was praying for the furlough. 

Newhouse announced 10-day furloughs and pension freezes at all its papers outside Michigan. Also that day, Gannett announced a week of furloughs, having already implemented a company-wide, one-week furlough just months ago.  We at Newhouse get the benefit of three-day weekends and extended vacation time, if we choose, or we may also work 37.5 hours for 32 weeks so we aren’t hit too hard. 

Friends at Gannett report they were told “furlough isn’t vacation” and must take mid-week furlough days. As if the cash-strapped employees weren’t put out enough!

I dipped my toe into the furlough pool immediately, taking off that Wednesday, to see how it would affect my paycheck and budget. I’m also extending two planned vacations with furlough days and taking a four-day weekend.

Now our staff adds “furlough” to nearly every noun for effect. One coworker baked furlough cookies (delicious!) for the next day. Today, she brought in a furlough quiche for breakfast. I’m holding out for furlough steak! 

Lost Souls

Final Edition of ‘P-I’ Rolls Off the Press

The last print edition of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer rolled off the presses this morning, with a commemorative issue.

The paper accentuates the positive, with the top hed on the site proclaiming, “One era ends, another begins.” It opens: “The Seattle Post-Intelligencer will print its final edition Tuesday and become the nation’s largest daily newspaper to shift to an entirely digital news product.”

The AP account reads: “The Seattle Post-Intelligencer published a thick commemorative issue tracing the history of Seattle’s oldest newspaper as its final print edition. “The last edition of the P-I began rolling off the presses at a suburban printing plant shortly after 10 p.m. Monday. The front page of the commemorative section featured a headline saying, ‘You’ve meant the world to us,’ and a photo of the 30-foot neon globe atop the P-I’s building, which has a slogan rotating around the equator saying, ‘It’s in the P-I.’

“The paper was to be delivered wrapped with 20 to 24 pages of photos and stories on the P-I’s 146-year-old history.”

A video at our blog shows the staff describing their jobs and saying farewell and “what breaks my heart the most.” And “we’ve always given voice to the powerless and the voiceless.”

Someone recalls wanting to be Lois Lane of the Daily Planet as a kid and here she was, working at the only paper with a globe on the roof. And: “I’ll miss the people who worked under the globe….the frantic pace to do it well and do it first.”

“The P-I basketball team.”

“I’m a photographer and the most I’ll miss is its great view of the bay.”

“The sunsets.”

“Making a difference in a city I love.”

-Greg Mitchell, Editor & Publisher

Life After Reporting

Many ‘Star-Ledger’ Reporters Turn to the ‘Other Side’ After Buyouts

NEW YORK-At least 16 reporters and newsroom staffers at The Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J., most of whom left the paper in the past year’s massive buyout, are now working for public officials or state agencies the paper covers.

In several cases, writers who covered a specific beat are now working for individuals or agencies upon which they once reported.

Star-Ledger Editor Jim Willse told E&P it was not a surprise that so many of his former staffers had found such positions, and believed the paper would maintain quality coverage either way. “I don’t have any view on it; it is not unusual,” he added.

Several of those who switched jobs said they understand why some would look at their change in position as unusual, but said they bring the same accuracy and honesty to their new jobs, many as public information officers, that they did to reporting.

“I had no idea what I was going to do, I didn’t think I would take it,” Wayne Woolley says of the buyout offer that came forward last summer and offered most employees one-year’s salary. “I started looking around and had a preliminary conversation with some folks in government, it was a matter of luck.”

Woolley, a military affairs writer whose career spanned 15 years with the Star-Ledger, The Detroit News and the Associated Press, believes his new job at the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs is a good fit.

“I would have a hard time doing this for an organization I didn’t believe in,” he said, noting that the paper does lose some “institutional memory” when so many veterans depart.

“It is upsetting.” Jim O’Neill, who spent 31 years at the Star-Ledger, believes he can bring a sense of news to his new post with the county prosecutor, which he contends is a plus for residents. “The Ledger’s loss is a gain for the people in the public sector who are able to hire talented reporters,” he said. “The public is well-served because I want to make the office look good, and to do that I want to be cooperative and as helpful as I can.”

John Holl, who covered Hunterdon County for the newspaper but now works in Union County, says he would not have taken a job in the county he covered. Holl, who left in 2008 prior to the buyout, says he does not believe it is a conflict to work for a public agency after being a reporter.

“I had a clear conscience with that,” he says. “I like to think that one of the reasons I took this job is that they want transparency.”

-Joe Strupp, Editor & Publisher

Furloughs Aplenty

NEW YORK- Add The Day of New London, Conn., to the list of newspapers announcing week-long unpaid furloughs aimed at saving money.

The Day revealed the plan in a weekend story that said “it will require all employees to take a week off without pay to shore up its bottom line, which has been bruised by a lingering recession and declining advertising revenues.”

Publisher Gary Farrugia added that the furloughs by the company’s 308 full- and part-time employees will save some $300,000 in annual expenses. The move requires employees to take their one-week furlough before the end of June, the story said.

The Day, which is locally owned by a not-for-profit trust, joins a growing list of newspapers announcing furloughs, including all Gannett U.S. properties and numerous MediaNews Group outlets.

-Editor & Publisher

Buy a Newspaper; Save a Groundhog

CHICAGO – Monday is “National Buy a Newspaper Day,” a phenomenon birthed, appropriately enough for these confused times in the business, on the Internet.

Chris Freiberg, the public safety reporter for the Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, created the day with a site on Facebook.com. Nearly 20,000 have joined the event, promising to buy a copy of a printed newspaper on Monday.

Freiberg’s Facebook entry begins by quickly sketching the parlous state of the industry, with the possible imminent disappearance of dailies in Seattle and Denver. He laments the end of home delivery most of the week by Detroit’s dailies.

“If things get really bad, some experts say that some small towns might not have any paper by 2010,” he writes. “And that’s a shame. Unlike radio which has become dominated by opinion or TV news which only looks for the 30 second sound bite, the local newspaper digs deep every day to get you, the reader, the full story on what’s happening in your town.”

-Editor & Publisher

Another One Bites the Dust?

SEATTLE– Employees at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer have been notified by the newspaper’s owner, the Hearst Corp., that it expects all P-I jobs to be eliminated if no one purchases the paper.

The P-I reported on its Web site Tuesday night that the paper’s employees were notified in a letter to the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Guild sent Friday by Roger Oglesby, P-I editor and publisher. The letter said jobs will end March 18 at the earliest, though they could last through April 1. The paper has a current staff of 170. The letter was required by the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act. Managers received a similar letter Saturday.

On Jan. 9, Hearst said it would stop printing the P-I if no buyer was found within 60 days. Hearst also repeated in its letter to employees that it might continue with a seattlepi.com Web site, produced by far fewer employees. The letter said some P-I workers might be offered positions with a Web site.

The P-I has a weekday circulation of 117,000, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations. Founded as the Seattle Gazette in 1863, Hearst has owned the P-I since 1921, and the paper has had operating losses since 2000, including $14 million last year. Hearst has hired newspaper industry investment bankers Broadwater & Associates of New York to seek a buyer for the paper.

-Associated Press