Friday, August 14, 2009

Latest Layoffs Won't Be End of Bad News at Journal-News

Northern New York Suburbs Short-Shrifted by Short-Sighted, Desperate Management, Greedy Gannett Corporate Overlords

The Journal-News, the Gannett newspaper that purportedly serves Westchester, Rockland and Putnam counties north of New York, is dying and it doesn't even know it.
The latest signs that a flatline is nigh: Wednesday's announcement that the paper was cutting 50 jobs -- representing 26 percent of current positions -- of its newsrooms, while excising 20 jobs from the ad department.
Now, this would be just another lamentable layoff post, were it not for the fact that Gannett has actually eliminated all 288 jobs in the news and ad departments. Everyone can apply for new, redefined positions, with snappy titles like "visual specialist" and "local beat reporter." But 70 will be shown the door by Aug. 28. They'll join 57 people in other departments who were canned last week.
It's scary that a lot of people I know -- I worked at the J-N 20 years ago -- are in danger of losing their jobs in a business where they've worked most of their adult lives with little hope of finding another news job if they don't make the cut.
What's even more frightening is they could have even more company sooner than later. Publisher Michael Fisch told a staff meeting that revenues have plunged as much as 35 percent in the past year.
That's money that is never coming back. And judging by the product, why should it? The paper has shrunk its physical size along with its reporting staff. It's essentially given up on covering professional sports. Most towns get only spot coverage, and much of the writing appears to have spawned from press releases.
The J-N has shown it still has a pulse by competing vigorously on the coverage of the crash of Diane Schuler, the wrong-way driver on the Taconic State Parkway who killed eight people, including herself. Of course, you would have assumed the paper would own the story given that it happened on its turf.
But the J-N, as I have pointed out previously, has too often been indifferent or clueless to big stories in its backyard, and has gotten its clock cleaned by The New York Times or stumbled badly on coverage of a rare Westchester tornado, where there was little evidence any of the numerous reporters credited with writing ever left the newsroom.
It's inevitable there will be gaping coverage holes. Even less news will appear in a paper that already has too-few reasons to buy it. Yet, in a remarkable display of cluelessness, Gannett raised the daily newsstand price to 75 cents.
Daily circulation is now about 95,000 and falling. It was about 160,000 when I was last there. Do the math. No matter how hard you try, they don't add up to anything that can be construed as good news for Journal-News employees -- or readers.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's an incredible shame, Steve. I was an AME there for several years (during 9/11, etc.). and at one time we had a proud staff. Gutted is too kind a word for what's happening this week. If a company like Gannett can't make it in a prime location like West-Put-Rock ... but we know the answers to the questions that kind of colossal failure begs.