Thursday, October 30, 2008

More Layoffs Ordered at Pensacola News Journal

The powers on high at Gannett Corp. have ordered the involuntary "lay-off of 10% of its newspaper employees -- up to 3,000 workers -- by early December." These cuts will come on the heels of earlier substantial job eliminations and firings that have left the News Journal a shell of its former self.

According to the Business Journal of Milwaukee "
Laid-off personnel will receive one week of severance for every year with the company, with a cap of 26 weeks."

It's not that Gannett Corporation is losing money, although revenues are trending down. In fact, third quarter profits for the corporation, it was announced yesterday, were 69 cents a share -- and that includes a special expense charge of $23 million for "severance expenses" from the earlier round of layoffs this summer. The problem is that while Gannett is profitable, its third quarter profits are less than they were a year ago when the corporation earned $1.01 a share.

Wall Street doesn't like that.

We've recently been engaged in a large project that requires a good deal of research into a couple of century old newspapers. This may explain why we're feeling a bit sadder than usual over the slow death of the Pensacola News Journal we seem to be witnessing. There was a time, we can see clearly in the archives we've been combing, when newspaper owners were truly devoted to the communities they served and well satisfied if they made any profit at all.

Somewhere along the way, Wall Street bought out almost all of those newspapers. Now, the distant owners and investment houses that really own the nation's papers do not give a flip about the communities their newspapers serve. The stock-holding institutions and investment houses are satisfied only if their profits increase, quarter upon quarter and year upon year, no matter how thin and useless the actual "product" they are selling may be.

In Wall Street's world the Pensacola News Journal is not a community newspaper. It's a line item on an accounting sheet. It might as well be a widget manufacturer, for all Wall Street cares.

Life in America is poorer for that. We aren't sure what the solution may be, aside from establishing a relationship with a foundation as the St. Petersburg Times once did, but there has to be a better way.


Bryan said...

Why don't they just close? They can't maintain their subscriber base unless they report, and they can't report without people.

Wall Street, not the Internet is killing newspapers.

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