Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Star-Tribune Grows Dimmer In Minnesota

Another Lesson In What Happens When Newspapers Go Private; As Profits Plunge, New Owners Pull Out The Stops To Pull Plug On Staff
From our cautionary-tale file comes news that the Star-Tribune in Minneapolis will shed another 145 bodies from its hardly-bloated payroll, including 50 in the newsroom. Combine that with a previous round of cutbacks a few weeks ago, that means there will be 20 percent fewer editors and reporters at the start of the year.
Thanks a whole heckuva lot, Avista Capital Partners. It was not enough that they bought the Strib this year for $530 million, roughly $700 million less than what McClatchy had paid for it. Instead of bolstering its prized asset, Avista decided it needed an ROI sooner than later and retreated to the suicidal newspaper-think of cutting resources to make the balance sheets sing, thereby giving more people fewer reasons to buy the paper.
Look, no one's disputing that times have changed for the worse for the once-mighty metro dailies. Classifieds have fallen off the cliff, while ads are showing lemming-like tendencies. Meanwhile, readers keep heading for the exits. The Audit Bureau of Circulation numbers show the Strib plunged 4.8 percent daily and 5.3 percent on Sunday.
In other words, ouch.
Strib brass are saying all the right things about bolstering local coverage, and "smarter" in-depth stories, as if to imply that the current enterprise pieces are pretty insipid.
Still, it's another version of "we have to kill the newspaper in order to save it." Brian Tierney has shown how to do this in Philadelphia [and stop puffing your chest, Bri, about the Inky gaining .61 percent in circulation] and Sam Zell may yet do the same in Tribune World.
So why is it that these people want to own newspapers? They're not doing anybody any favors, especially their employees and readers.

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