Newspapers insist on a bottom line that’s above almost any other industry, and when it falls below about 30 percent, they make cuts. Big cuts.
Yesterday, Gannett Corp. laid off another 700 people across the company’s newspapers.
When I joined Gannett, at the Journal News in Rockland County, NY, in 1986, it was considered one of the top family-friendly companies to work for. Health benefits were excellent and time off was better than at most other newspaper companies. If you worked hard, you got ahead; there were incentives; there were rewards for people who did good work.
It was an ugly scene at newspapers across the company as people who had been loyal employees for decades were cut loose.
So, why are newspapers losing so much revenue and readership?
The company line is that newspapers are a dying industry because people get their news online.
But Gannett is cutting its online staff too. Here in Asheville there was a separate department dedicated to Web content. That got cut in the last round. The company spent millions on top-of-the-line video equipment and software and training four years ago, and then pretty much abandoned it.
As newsrooms get smaller, the people who are left have fewer and fewer opportunities for any investigative reporting. More time is spent processing press releases and covering events to fill what little space is left.
It used to be that ads filled in the spaces around editorial content; now editorial content is the filler for the spaces around the ads. The ever-shrinking news hole leaves less and less space for real news.
That means government and big business have no one watching what they’re up to. It makes it that much easier for Fox Noise to spread its lies about government takeovers and death panels and how we “need” to gut Social Secutity and Medicaid. They spread the fallacy of us being broke and no one is here to explain that we’re not.
Add that to the consistent de-funding of education over the last 30 years and you have the Koch Brothers’ dream scenario.
Newspapers don’t have to die; they need to become nonprofits. Then Craig Dubow, the CEO of Gannett will have to live on less than $10 million a year and people who cost the company $40,000 can have their jobs back and we can save our Democracy.