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.


More at PJNet by Leonard Witt.


To Susie Madrak, who said goodbye her father last weekend. Read her tribute to him. If you don’t know her, you are missing out on knowing a special, passionate soul. Her part in running the Norgs unconference was central to it being a success, in every way.

And to my friend Lynne, who lost her grandson this weekend.

My heart goes out to you.

Norgs Stories for October 10th

Whadda week!

  • Google acquires YouTube for $1.65 billion in stock and everyone’s hearts are a flutter. There’s been much grousing about what this means (see Memeorandum), but like damn near always, I find what’s missing is a historical perspective. Google acquired large particiaptory media companies in the past. Think Blogger. Think DejaNews. This fits what has always been in the company’s DNA. A recognition that the web is social software. The frightening thing is that companies are liable to take the wrong lessons from this. Time for everyone to take a deep breath. For some interesting thoughts see Scott Karp, Scott Rosenberg, Niall Kennedy, Susan Mernit, lostremote, Jeff Jarvis, and Don Dodge.
  • ONA sounded like it was a success this year, where real progress was made and minds opened.

    Jeff Jarvis called it “The death of Eeyore”, sharing the optimism and passion he noticed at the conference.

    But it had to happen. Someone had to go back to that tired fiction,that tired lie – that of a ‘fight’ between blogging and journalism. This time it came from a blogger – Mike Arrington, of Techcrunch – who talks about it, from his point of view on his blog.

    It’s clear that from Jeff’s perspective, and Staci’s at paidContent,Arrington turned it into a polarized circus, and helped make bloggers look bad.

    Mike Arrington doesn’t speak for the rest of us folks. Take note of Staci’s and Jeff’s reactions. We gotta continue to build bridges of understanding – not walls.

    Amy Webb was there and thought that papers might be looking to hard at video as a savior.

  • Speaking of building bridges of understanding – Doc Searls has a set of ten tips for newspapers, that sound very much in line with what we’ve been discussing here. It’s a good read, even if you find yourself nodding in agreement the whole time.
  • Jay Rosen’s Q & A at Slashdot is a real must read. He answers, in depth,questions about, Citizen Journalism and the news industry.
  • Rebecca Blood, talking about product customer service, and a concrete example with United Airlines, explains how Social Media Works.
  • A long piece, that I have yet to read, but which looks to have much to chew on, is Alice Goldman’s paper (of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law) Community Node-Based User Governance: Applying Craigslist’s Techniques to Decentralized Internet Governance.

Hey – what’s a Norg? And there was an unconference you say? Uhuh. And an ongoing conversation. We need to get our site rolling.