Saturday, January 10, 2009

Hearst's Seattle Paper: Sell, Shutter or Digitize

John Dickson / P-I
P-I business editor Margaret Santjer, left, works with senior online producer Sarah Rupp as they post a story about the P-I's being put up for sale. In the background, Steven Swartz, president of The Hearst Corp.'s newspaper division, addresses the staff. At right is managing editor David McCumber.

From Associated Press:

Hearst Corp. put Seattle's oldest newspaper, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, up for sale Friday, saying that if it can't find a buyer in the next 60 days, the paper will close or continue to exist only on the Internet.

"These options include a move to a digital-only operation with a greatly reduced staff or a complete shutdown of all operations," Hearst, the Post-Intelligencer's parent company, said in a statement. "In no case will Hearst continue to publish the P-I in printed form following the conclusion of this process."

Hearst Newspaper Division President Steve Swartz broke the news in a meeting with newspaper employees.

The statement said Hearst is not considering buying the Seattle Times, the city's other daily paper. Hearst has owned the P-I since 1921, and the paper has had operating losses since 2000, including $14 million last year.

The mood in the newsroom was grim. Some staff members cried, others were angry.

"People are kind of depressed. There's some crying," said Candace Heckman, P-I breaking news editor who has worked at the paper since 2000. She said Mr. Swartz was peppered with many questions by staffers but declined to say more.

"Our journalists continue to do a spectacular job of serving the people of Seattle, which has been our great privilege for the past 88 years," Mr. Swartz said in a written statement. "But our losses have reached an unacceptable level, so with great regret we are seeking a new owner for the P-I.

Chris Grygiel, an assistant city editor, said neither Mr. Swartz nor P-I executives took questions at the meeting. "People are just pretty shocked and amazed."

> After 146 years, the newspaper's days are numbered: 60

> Seattle P-I up for sale; could go online-only


> Monitor to trim its staff by 7 percent

> Buffalo News offers new round of employee buyouts

> Dow Jones Freezes Salaries

> Boston Globe will sell space for ads on front page

> Star Tribune heading for bankruptcy after Guild bolts?

> St. Louis Post-Dispatch laying off 39, with 14 in newsroom

> Body Count at Singleton's Los Angeles Newspaper Group

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Thursday, January 8, 2009

Newspapers Rescued in Connecticut

From Newspaper Death Watch:

It looks like a chain of Connecticut newspapers that were just days from closure will continue publishing under the guidance of a New Englander. Longtime newspaper executive Michael E. Schroeder (right) has bought the group that includes the Bristol Press, the New Britain Herald and three nearby weeklies. Schroeder was most recently publisher of BostonNOW, a free daily with a promising future that abruptly closed under unusual circumstances last spring. Schroeder was previously with Newsday. There’s no word on what he plans to do with his new possessions, but the papers will continue to publish on their current schedule for now. “We look forward to building upon the rich history of these properties,” reads Schroeder’s quote from the press release.

[Blog editor's note: Schroeder, an all-around professional and good guy, is a friend from old days at the Los Angeles Herald Examiner.]

> Buyer comes forward to save Conn. newspapers

> Bristol, New Britain Newspapers Get 'New Lease On Life'

> From breakfast and NY Times, to Bristol in a month

> 'New' Bristol Press to deliver info many ways

> Publicity Helped Save Bristol Press, N.B. Herald

> Sun-Times Media closing a dozen suburban papers

> Sun-Times unions asked to take compensation cut as papers seek new ways to trim costs

> Albuquerque Journal to halt some home deliveries

> Strib union rejects concessions, bankruptcy seems certain

> Bailing Out One of the 20th Century's Best Business Models

Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

What Google Can Do to Save Newspapers

Metaphorically speaking, Google is killing the newspaper industry. Online news is quickly hollowing out the traditional paper - the Christian Science Monitor eliminates its print edition, Tribune Co. declares bankruptcy, Detroit's two dailies slash home delivery to three days a week - while Google rakes in advertising profits.

Turns out that Google CEO Eric Schmidt professes a passionate desire to lend a hand. In an interview with Fortune's Adam Lashinsky, he shares some thoughts on how newspapers might yet survive - and how Google might help. [Click for MORE]

> Time Warner expects $25B charge, loss for year

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The Man Who Owns The News

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What If the NY Times Goes Out of Business
-- This May

Can America’s paper of record survive the death of newsprint?
Can journalism?

By Michael Hirschorn

The Atlantic

Virtually all the predictions about the death of old media have assumed a comfortingly long time frame for the end of print—the moment when, amid a panoply of flashing lights, press conferences, and elegiac reminiscences, the newspaper presses stop rolling and news goes entirely digital. Most of these scenarios assume a gradual crossing-over, almost like the migration of dunes, as behaviors change, paradigms shift, and the digital future heaves fully into view. The thinking goes that the existing brands—The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal—will be the ones making that transition, challenged but still dominant as sources of original reporting.

But what if the old media dies much more quickly? What if a hurricane comes along and obliterates the dunes entirely? Specifically, what if The New York Times goes out of business—like, this May? [Click for MORE]

> Post-paper and after the tears

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Live from Chicago... the Tribune News Room

Hat tip to Ed Padgett

> Tribune Co. Partnering With Online Ticket Seller Sphere: Related Content

Joe the Plumber to Be War Correspondent

From the Associated Press:

Joe The Plumber is putting down his wrenches and picking up a reporter’s notebook.

The Ohio man who became a household name during the presidential campaign says he is heading to Israel as a war correspondent for the conservative Web site

Samuel J. Wurzelbacher (WUR’-zuhl-bah-kur) says he’ll spend 10 days covering the fighting.

He tells WNWO-TV in Toledo that he wants to let Israel’s “’Average Joes’ share their story.”

Wurzelbacher gained attention during the final weeks of the campaign when he asked Barack Obama about his tax plan.

He later joined Republican John McCain on the campaign trail. At one stop, he agreed with a McCain supporter who asked if he believed a vote for Obama was a vote for the death of Israel.

> Obama Wants Journalist Gupta for Surgeon General

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Tuesday, January 6, 2009

How Newspapers Tried to Invent the Web
But failed

A moment of sympathy, please, for newspapers, whose readers and advertisers have been fleeing at a frightening rate.

It would be easy to accuse editors and publishers of being clueless about the coming Internet disruption and to insist that the industry's proper reward for decades of haughty attitude, bad planning, and incompetence is bankruptcy.

But newspapers have really, really tried to wrap their hands around the future and preserve their franchise... [Click for MORE]

> Papers still searching for online answers Sphere: Related Content

This News Just In From Chicago...

Bidding for Chicago Cubs may be near a conclusion
Tribune Co., owner of the Chicago Cubs, is close to selecting a winning bid for the team from three finalists, according to people familiar with the sales talks.

NYSE Officially De-lists Certain Tribune Co. Debt

The New York Stock Exchange followed up on its stop-trading order last month, officially notifying the Securities and Exchange Commission Tuesday that it has delisted some of Tribune Co.’s publicly traded debt.

Tribune default swaps may recover in 3.5 pct area

Sellers of protection on bankrupt Tribune Co's bonds are facing losses in the area of 96.5 percent of the insurance they sold, based on the initial results of an auction on Tuesday published by auction administrators Creditex and Markit.


Tribune CDS recover 1.5 percent in auction
Sellers of protection on Tribune Co's bonds are facing losses of 98.5 percent of the insurance they sold, based on the results of an auction on Tuesday to determine the value of the bankrupt company's credit default swaps.The auction determined swaps on Tribune's bonds are worth 1.5 cents on the dollar, said auction administrators Creditex and Markit. Sphere: Related Content

Monday, January 5, 2009

Let's Start a Newspaper

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LA-Area Newspapers to Merge Copy Desks

Announcements have been made in multiple newsrooms ... that a plan to merge all LANG copy desks into a central desk at the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, is tentatively scheduled for February or March and 2008 LANG-offered buyout options will remain in effect: one week of pay per year of service up to six years plus three months COBRA and a promise not to contest unemployment.

The terms of layoffs/buyouts are subject to negotiation for Guild-covered staffers. [Click for MORE] Sphere: Related Content

Tribune Bankruptcy May Trigger Tax Complications

Of the many issues that surfaced after Tribune Co. filed for Chapter 11 protection yesterday, tax consequences were among the least discussed. But tax effects may be extremely cumbersome to deal with as the company works its way through bankruptcy, especially if Tribune loses its tax status as a so-called S corporation, says a new client advisory from Robert Willens LLC.

An S corporation — named so because it is subject to the tax code's subchapter S provision — meets the Internal Revenue definition of a small business, has fewer than 100 shareholders, and is structured as a corporation but taxed like a partnership. As a result, income and the attendant taxes pass through the corporation directly to the shareholders, who pay taxes on the profits. So, with the exception of "built-in gains," an S corporation is not subject to tax on its income.

Currently, all of Tribune's outstanding stock is owned by an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP), established when owner Sam Zell orchestrated the LBO. However, the number of shareholders may grow precipitously if the company is forced through a bankruptcy restructuring to pay-off its creditors in stock. That's a problem, notes tax expert Willens in his company's advisory. [Click for MORE]

> Lee auditors issue ‘going concern’ warning

> Analysts: McClatchy is vulnerable going into 2009

> NYT Co., Gannett face debt hangover

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With News Business in Crisis,
What Do Journalism Professors Tell Students?

Falling ad revenue. Plunging profits. Layoffs. Downsizing. Bankruptcy filings.

The news in the news business can’t get any worse. Some days it seems as if those who write the first draft of history have little in the way of a future.

So what are journalism professors, those charged with grooming the next generation of reporters, editors and producers, telling their students these days about the news business in general, and print journalism, that seemingly most endangered of species, in particular?[Click for MORE]

> New California law protects school journalism advisors

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Sunday, January 4, 2009

End of the World!
NY Times Prints Color Ad on Front Page!

In its latest concession to the worst revenue slide since the Depression, The New York Times has begun selling display advertising on its front page, a step that has become increasingly common across the newspaper industry.

The first such ad, appearing Monday in color, was bought by CBS. The ad, two-and-a-half inches high, lies horizontally across the bottom of the front page, below the news articles and a brief summary of some articles in the paper. In a statement, the paper said such ads would be placed “below the fold” — that is, on the lower half of the page. [Click for MORE]

> Front page ads in the New York Times cost $75,000 daily, $100,000 on Sunday
> Former newspaper rivals cooperate as jobs are cut Sphere: Related Content