Friday, November 14, 2008

You Knew Journal Register Was Bad. But This Bad?

Turns Out The Company Was Being Run By Idiots Even When Its Stock Was Worth Something

As word emerged this week (see below post) on the likelihood of Journal Register shutting down two dailies and 13 weeklies in Connecticut, it could have been construed as just another casualty in the latest annus horribilis that's overtaken the news business.
But in reading an insightful blog post from Rick Edmonds, it turns out the company was already busy digging its own grave a year before the nationwide downturn in circulation and ads.
This is a company that was proud of the fact that managers would check reporters' odometers to make sure they weren't padding expense accounts.
This is a company where "you would be fired if you left before your work for the day was finished, but you would also be fired if you put in for overtime."
But Edmonds gets to the heart of the matter, namely that running a news organization on the cheap may allow you to temporarily curry favor on Wall Street. However, all that penny-pinching would soon be evident to readers who'd see their papers became ever more mediocre.
"It also left the company little wiggle room to cut more in hard times," notes Edmonds.
That's why Journal-Register stock is delisted, and is selling for just over a penny. In fact, you could buy ALL of the outstanding shares in the company for just $462,000.
But why would you want to?
Yet, no reason to feel sorry for the J-R chieftains. They helped create the mess they're wallowing in, after all. Save your sympathy for the employees of these papers, who've soldiered on in spite of immensely difficult conditions. Dealing with heartless management is the least of their problems when faced with losing a job.
And suffer the readers. Even if the J-R papers are a shell of their former selves, at least they are there when needed. If they go, there's no one or nothing to replace them. Like them or not, their absence will be conspicuous, especially when no other media organization steps in to fill the vacuum that will be inevitably created.

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