Saturday, July 11, 2009

Gannett Blog Jumps In the Lifeboat While the Dance Band on the Titanic Warms Up

Jim Hopkins Bids Farewell Just as Gannett Finishes Getting Rid of Another 1,300 Newspaper Employees

First things first. A thanks to Jim Hopkins, who started the popular, incendiary Gannett Blog, which dutifully -- and sometimes stridently -- covered the disintegration of a once-mighty media company by executives who somehow manage to be both greedy and clueless at the same time.
For various reasons -- money most among them -- Hopkins decided to put a -30- on new blog posts as of last night. But he went out with a bang, no thanks to Gannett, which laid off another 1,300 employees from its newspaper division.
Just when you thought there was anything left for Gannett to cut, the beancounters worked their magic. Now there are even fewer reasons to buy the company's mostly mediocre papers. Of course, that won't stop them from raising the cover prices again in the near future.
One property that escaped, for now, unscathed is one of my former employers, The Journal-News, the paper of record for New York's northern suburbs. Or at least the paper.
As the J-N is now absorbing the copy editing and graphics departments of the wheezing Poughkeepsie Journal, management decided to hold off on the pink slips until August so those operations could be properly integrated.
The J-N had a daily circulation of around 160,000 when I worked there 20 years ago. It's now down near 92,000 and sinking while it shrinks: pages are smaller in keepig with the desiccated reporting staff. As one anonymous scribe posted on Gannett Blog:

I am a Westchester reporter. Twice last week -- TWICE -- I was interviewing someone and they said to me:

What is The Journal News? Can you imagine this for any other semi-major daily paper?(For all you readers outside the area: The Journal News is the name the paper was given when a group of smaller local dailies was merged in late 1998. More than 10 years later, the new name hasn't really caught on.)When I joined the company, circulation was 155,000 daily and 170,000 Sunday ...

These were sources in Northern Westchester, but I find the single place with the fewest people who know about us is Scarsdale. I cannot tell you how many times over the years I've had to explain what The Journal News is to someone from Scarsdale...

The area IS weird when it comes to local versus local, local. People live in about 75 towns and don't seem to have a regional feeling at all. If you live in Yonkers, you just don't want to read about Armonk or Peekskill or Brewster or Nyack, especially if all you're reading is the local municipal stuff or a feature about a tiny community festival.

However, the people here are sophisticated and appreciate a good story that's newsy about anywhere in the area, whether it's a scam or corruption revealed or a compelling personality featured or a new innovation explained....

We have lost A LOT of reporting staff. There is no question that readers today are getting FEWER stories than they did six months ago -- and A TON less than they did three years ago. There is news that goes uncovered and features that go unwritten.Is there any mystery why there are fewer readers? Why pay the same -- or more -- for a thinner paper?

Sad, but oh so typical, for Gannett.

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