Service of a Newspaper’s Reporter Hemorrhage

April 16th, 2018

Categories: Firing, Greed, Newspapers

Photo: keithedwards.com

I’ve nibbled around the edges of this topic—the impact of the loss of local news delivered by newspapers—and the obvious major reasons for it: decreasing readership and advertising as well as advertising dollars moving elsewhere. A segment of “CBS This Morning” on Saturday covered the daring move by the Denver Post’s editorial page editor, Chuck Plunkett.

“In the defiant and desperate editorial, Plunkett and a host of other writers criticized the paper’s hedge fund owners, Alden Global Capital, for slashing staff, and they warned Denver it may lose its century-and-a-half-old newspaper,” according to CBS’ Barry Peterson.

Barry Peterson. Photo: cbsnews.com

Said Plunkett: “We call out other people who we feel like [sic] aren’t doing their job or living up to their obligations. We should be able to call out our own owners, and that’s why I did it.” The impetus: another giant layoff at the paper, this time of 30 reporters. Photojournalist John Leyba was one: He’d worked at the paper for 30 years, since his first job in the photo lab at 19.

Aside: I’ve written here before that I’m alarmed by the few if any people to approach at major regional papers with news pitches. Syndicated stories are often the norm and the fact it’s harder for PR people to get out a client’s information is unimportant—we find ways. The resulting paucity of oversight of local businesses, government or organizations and the people who work for them is critical. Plunkett called it a paper’s watchdog role. Plus, it’s nice to know what’s going on where you live.

Photo: uft.org

Back to Peterson: “The striking editorial includes a photo filled with silhouettes of the journalists who were laid off or have left since the paper won a Pulitzer Prize in 2013. The various articles said the paper’s ranks have shriveled to around 60, placing blame squarely on what one writer called the ‘vulture capitalists’ at the hedge fund.”

Plunkett is looking to the Denver community and its civic leaders to “step in to save the flagship local newspaper.”

The CBS report continued: “Alden Global Capital is the primary equity holder in Digital First Media, which owns 97 newspapers. According to the NewsGuild union, some papers have lost more than 70 percent their workforce. A recent lawsuit alleges Alden mismanaged hundreds of millions of dollars from the news chain.”

The dynamic at this paper does not seem to match what’s happening at many others where the wolf is at the door. “Media experts nationally and locally have reported that Alden is making a profit of around 20 percent.”

Do you feel that newspapers are so “last year” that they serve little purpose in today’s world? What, if anything, has taken their place—is drive time radio making a comeback or are online news resources and websites filling the gap? Where do you get local news? Do you think communities will suffer without the fourth estate’s role as a watchdog?

 

Photo: pinterest.com

 

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4 Responses to “Service of a Newspaper’s Reporter Hemorrhage”

  1. Protius Said:

    That same Saturday morning TV news which carried the Denver Post story that lead to your thoughtful post also reported on the bombing early that morning of Damascus by the US, England and France. The common thread through both stories struck home hard.

    Some of you may remember the great 1949 war film, “Twelve O’clock High,” about an English based demoralized squadron of U.S. long distance bomber pilots worn down by their losses flying missions 75 years ago over Germany. It is superbly written, beautifully acted and one of the few movies of its kind to strike a true nerve.

    Where is the hook? We lost many pilots’ lives bombing Germany, and we lost none bombing Syria, at least on this occasion. Why? Because these bombs were missiles; there were none.

    Just as in this raid, where few American lives were at immediate risk, the Denver Post has been hemorrhaging skilled labor, not because its product is inferior, rather because its new owners have found they can improve return on investment by putting out a paper using artificial intelligence to replace them. This invention, dangerous as it may be, is indeed the future.

    Artificial intelligence is supposedly capable of creating an advanced version of ourselves at our current level of development. If it is, and does, it will become unstoppable, because it will be capable of outwitting whoever tries to stop it including us.

  2. Hank Goldman Said:

    Very interesting! Great topic.

    Unfortunately newspapers will eventually phase out into online newspapers. That’s part of the reason I retired from advertising when I did. I was primarily doing newspaper ads! The actual circulation of the physical newspaper went down so much… It was no longer a viable media for many of my clients.

    We continue to read the new York Times online. Of course the news Cable stations like CNN and MSNBC also supply huge amounts of very current news… That even the online newspapers have difficulty keeping up with. Their reporters can’t be everywhere but CNN seems to have a knack for getting people that are near the story. So newspapers will continue but not on paper!

  3. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Hank,

    I thought the same about cable news but it doesn’t cover what is happening in Denver or Minneapolis or New Orleans, etc. and the crooks and those who should be commended in towns and cities around the country are not being watched or called out. Budgets from the cable stations can’t stretch to the local level. This means that people will be ill-informed when it comes to electing local officials or supporting local businesses.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Protius,

    Until your prediction happens we need to rely on standard intelligence to gather and interpret what’s going on, to keep an ear to the ground, to sniff out when something isn’t right and celebrate what should be recognized. How this research is paid for is a question. How the discoveries are disseminated–in print or online or by podcast or some other way–is not as important. When I watch a man like Robert Costa, National Political Reporter of the Washington Post and PBS Washington Week moderator, I’m in awe of his connections and what he shares with his audiences. Locally, there need to be junior Mr. Costa’s or the bad guys will win.

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