Axe Swinging Hard at The Hartford Courant and The Baltimore Sun. Thanks a Lot, Sam Zell
All Tribune newspapers have already been trimming, slicing, dicing and disemboweling their staff count to help Sam Zell with his crushing debt, and confront the perfect storm of declining advertising and diminished circulation.
But the cuts announced today by The Hartford Courant and The Sun in Baltimore are truly scary, especially if they presage similar cuts at Tribune's larger properties.
The Courant is slashing its weekly news page count by about 25 percent, and cutting 60 people from an already-emaciated news staff.
Which makes the spin in the memo from editor Cliff Teutsch all the more empty:
Those who remain will still be by far the largest news staff in Connecticut, and comparable in size to many papers of our circulation volume across the country. We will continue to be - we must continue to be -- a journalistic force. Our readers deserve that. That has been true for 243 years, and never more so than now.
Teutsch is right, readers do deserve that. What he doesn't reveal is how the Courant will remain a "journalistic force" with a shrunken news hole and a staff to match.
I think we all know how this will eventually turn out.
In Baltimore, publisher Tim Ryan is toeing a similar party line:
We are, by far, Baltimore’s media leader, and through ongoing innovation to introduce new and exciting media for our marketplace, we will maintain our competitive position.
You so want to believe them because you want the Courant, the Sun and every other newspaper beset by ownership that wants to kill the newspaper in order to save it to succeed and do the kind of work their employees bust their butts to be proud of and serve readers well.
But in Zell, Tribune has an owner who is in way over his head and will demand more from his newspapers, which for readers will inevitably mean less.
And no self-serving memo is going to do a damn thing to change that.