The Sad Irony of Layoffs at the Inquirer and Daily News

Last week a prime example of the utility and the need, for news organizations like those in our newspapers, played out in the pages of the Philadelphia Inquirer as it reported on mismanagement in Philadelphia’s Department of Human Services.

Mismanagement that has led to up to five children deaths in 2006.

In the report’s wake, two officials have been ousted and workers are left up in arms and in disarray, organizing a huge protest last Friday.

Contract negotiations are taking place at the Inquirer and Daily News, in the midst of huge shifts in the newspaper marketplace. Shifts that have been taking place for sometime now, shifts that force the issue – newspaper companies must change their business models or die.

Knight Ridder papers responded to changing marketplace, the past six years, with ever shrinking budgets, ever tightening belts, and consolidation of resources and empowerment in the hands of the few. The culmination of which was the fire sale that took place over the past year.

In Philadelphia a sense of optimism sprung as it was a group of local business leaders that purchased the papers. They talked of investment, and a recognition that further cuts were almost impossible to make.

So you gotta give the Daily News’s Will Bunch a pass for the bleak tone in his latest piece on the situation at the papers and the industry at large. I’m reflecting his irony here. This post being an echo of his in a sense.

How could he not feel that way with the memo him and other Philadelphia Media Holdings employees received Friday? A memo that sounded, I bet to his ears, all too familiar.

While saving the paper isn’t about saving jobs – it is about investment. Bold bets. A look towards the future. That’s hard to do with less and less resources, with folks busy just trying to keep up.

There is massive opportunity for the papers to reinvent their business models. And there are folks at the papers with the knowledge and wherewithal to do it (read all of Will’s post). But time is running out.

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More at PJNet by Leonard Witt.

2 responses

  1. Publishing Brian Tierney’s email would be a good way to start. I have just a couple of ideas that would require no more money:

    • Localize both papers completely. Give people a personal reason to buy the paper.
    • Eliminate the five columnists who give their opinion after every Eagle game. In the old days, you needed only one, Frank Dolson. Pick the best sports columnist you have, say Phil Sheridan, and keep him. Send Ashley McGeachy Fox or whatever her name is back to where she came from. Same for Bob Ford. You don’t need five columnists writing about the same game. Just one beat writer, one game story, one sidebar, one column. Eliminating five sports columnists saves about 500K a year. It adds up.
    • Keep the outstanding high school sports coverage and expand it. People care about their kids and the high schools they went to above the Redskins and Giants.
    • Keep the college coverage the same for the same reasons
    • Eliminate the Inquirer Washington bureau and use wires. They cover it, too.
    • Eliminate any foreign bureau and pick that up on the wires. People check CNN for that stuff anyway.
      THINK LOCAL, LOCAL, LOCAL, not global and watch Inquirer readership and ad levels slowly grow back.
  2. Interesting suggestions Mike. I can’t speak of what columnists should stay or go since I have no access to that kind of information.

    What I do know, is that there needs to be some hard choices made, and a great deal of investment – and it’s akin to changing the tires on a tractor trailer while it is moving.

    I’m optimistic enough to believe it can happen.

    Check this out:
    http://www.norgs.org/wiki/index.php?title=Main_Page

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