D-News, rumors come to life

Wow, what a sad thing.

Inevitable, perhaps. But still sad.

The Deseret News dropped the hammer today — 43 percent staff cut, including 57 full-time jobs and another 28 part-timers. You can read their story here (click!).

Another blog by Utah photojournalists here (click) has some continually updated news about it. The part about staffers having all their gear, pagers and other stuff taken away and then being escorted from the building by security is particularly harsh in light of all the warm fuzzy words about their past contributions in the press release.

Yah, I know, having fired folk removed at once is SOP these days — bad for morale to have them hanging around like Banquo’s ghost, and who knows what havoc they’ll wreak? — but it still seems mean.

This isn’t as bad as the 60 percent rumors we were hearing, but it’s bad enough. That’s a lot of people losing their jobs, and it’s not as if there are a lot of other newspapers for them to go to. Since PR jobs are also one of the first places that other companies cut back on when the economy gets hard, there aren’t a lot of places in that industry for them to go to either.

So this is a blow to the local economy — 85 people no longer shopping at local shops, eating at local restaurants, buying local cars, and on and on.

Haven’t heard from any friends there yet. I’m afraid to look, frankly, although I am sure word will get around. I hear Joe Cannon is out as editor — so the story isn’t completely bleak. The man had no business in that job.

The most interesting part of the story in the D-News is the paragraph, way down below, that says the paper’s print readership is up 20 percent in the last year. How can a business that is selling 20 percent more newspapers, or reaching 20 percent more readers (not the same thing) be in trouble?

Ads. Ad revenue sucks. The purchase price of a newspaper barely pays for the paper it is printed on. Ad revenue pays all the rest.

Go to the library and look at a copy of the Standard-Examiner on microfilm from 1978, the year I started here. Now look at one today. That 32 year old paper had five times as many ads from five times as many local businesses. Most of those local businesses –ZCMI, Gibson’s, Wolfe’s Sporting Goods, Blacker Furniture — no longer exist, and every time a local business goes away my publisher pops another anti-acid. Wal-Mart opens another branch, but it doesn’t take out more advertising.

Then there’s all this digital stuff — The D-News is also moving to the Triad Center and merging its staff with KSL — interesting, since KSL’s free on-line classified is probably as much responsible for the financial troubles at the D-News (And the S-E) as anything else.

The D-News, and the Trib, and we, are all going nuts trying to figure out how to make the Internet pay, so far with some success but, obviously, not enough. USA Today is going more on-line and cutting back as well.

Yeah yeah, I know: Times change, live with it. And we will. But it still sucks, and it is extremely painful to see so many have to pay the price for that change.

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16 Responses to D-News, rumors come to life

  1. Jim Hutchins says:

    This is sad.

  2. Bob Becker says:

    Yes, Jim, it is.

  3. Doug Gibson says:

    Charlie, what bothers me is that I don’t think the Deseret News made a real effort to save the newspaper’s credibility during this recession, etc. And it was a newspaper that had the financial resources to be creative. It seems that for the past three years, the DNews has focused on the slash n’ save strategy when it didn’t have to do that to survive.

  4. Mark Shenefelt says:

    Doug, this was written on papyrus the moment the church hired Mark Willes, the “Cereal Killer,” who slashed expenses at Kellogg’s, then the L.A. Times. Any time a businessman with an ax shows up, duck. Flowery “innovation” statements in the p.r. releases aside, this is your typical mow-em-down business retrenchment story.

  5. Neal Cassidy says:

    It is estimated that 60% of Utah is LDS but members still prefer the SL Tribune. Editor Joe Cannon seemed to think that by making the DesNews more Mormon it would attract more LDS. It appears that the mistaken belief that the thursday Mormon Times insert and the Saturday LDS church news section were going to appeal to the many non LDS who are moving to Utah was wrong. The SL Tribune still has a much larger circulation and much more of a state wide appeal. I always thougt that the DesNews somehow believed that all readers were living in Provo. By the way what is the status of Randy Hollis, formerly sports editor of the S-E and currently a sports editor at the DesNews?

  6. Charles Trentelman says:

    from what I’ve heard randy still has his job. I hope so, but have not heard from him directly.

  7. Pingback: 43% of Staff Cut at Deseret News | Utah Photojournalism

  8. Owain says:

    I can’t comment on the news about the Deseret News, as I have not read the paper to any great extent. The media in general does seem to be experiencing a crisis of confidence from the public, according to a recent poll.

    http://newsbusters.org/blogs/warner-todd-huston/2008/01/09/poll-only-19-americans-implicitly-trust-media

    What is the condition of the Standard Examiner? It would seem to me that the editorial stance of the Standard is frequently out of synch with respect to their target market. Utah is very conservative, the reddest state in the Union, according to some, yet you wouldn’t guess that from two recent editorials.

    Our View: the immigration follies. A 13 July CBS poll shows 52% of Americans support the AZ immigration law, and 17% believes it doesn’t go far enough. That’s 69% in support. I wouldn’t think Utah would be less that that, but I don’t know for sure.

    Our View: Obama is right on the mosque. In August 25th CBS poll, while 67% of Americans agree that the developers are within their rights to build a mosque there, 71% say that it is still inappropriate at that location. Again, I’d like to see a Utah poll to see how Utahns compare with the national numbers.

    Judging from the commentary on this web site, the Standard has certainly captured the liberal demographic on these topics, but you are bucking the odds with respect to the nation as a whole. If you were based in San Francisco, you’d be golden. I’m not entirely sure that is the Standards best business plan for Northern Utah.

    Well, we’ll see. Hopefully the Standard won’t become a weekly.

  9. Charles Trentelman says:

    i dunno, owain, you don’t seem to agree with a single thing in the paper, including the comics, but you also seem to read every word, some of them twice.

    I’d call that a win.

    More seriously, we run opinions of all sorts — you seriously aren’t calling Gibson a liberal, are you? — and the point isn’t just to be an echo chamber for people to hear their own opinions back at them. The point is to give people something to think about. If your own opinions are never challenged, thought slowly goes away.

  10. Owain says:

    Charles, I’ve been reading the Standard since about 1960 (with a 20 year break while in the USAF). I consider it my local paper, and I’d like to see it continue to do well.

    In the last 50 years, I’ve observed the that the Standard has dwindled shockingly. I’m not aware of all the ins and outs of newspaper economics, but I do know paper prices have taken their toll, ad revenues are down, and I’m sure you could provide a dozen factors on top of that.

    I agree with the Standard on some things and i disagree on others. Some of the stances I’ve disagreed with do seem to be at odds with general conservative nature of the majority of Utahns. That is a matter for the owner/publisher to determine.

    Even so, the newspaper business is still a BUISNESS, and successful businesses should seek to serve the needs of their customers. From the poll that I cited at the beginning of my previous post, it would seem that Americans in general feel that they are being poorly served by the media as a whole, and media organizations are suffering as a result. Witness the sale of Newsweek recently for $1 and the assumption of it’s debt.

    If the owners of the Standard are satisfied that they are meeting the needs of their customers, I’ll not argue with their judgement. But I would not like to see a repeat of the Deseret News happen at the Standard. You guys are still my home town newspaper, in spite of differences in opinion from time to time (frequently?) ;)

  11. Bob Becker says:

    CT:

    You wrote: “If your own opinions are never challenged, thought slowly goes away.”

    Exactly. That’s one of the disadvantages of the cable news/webblog options out there. They’re tremendous resources if people are willing to read widely across the political spectrum. But they also provide the opportunity for people to craft their reading on news and public policy so that they visit only sites/writers/blogs that share their beliefs. And I’m afraid that’s what’s happening widely across the population that regularly reads [or even watches] news and public affairs sources, which is I’m afraid a minority of the whole population.

    That’s one reason why, as so many seek out only sources that reinforce what they already believe, general circulation daily newspapers, like the SE, are still important. Their ed and op-ed pages, if they’re real papers and not political hack jobs, contain a range of opinion and analysis from across the political spectrum. Regular readers are thus likely to be exposed to ideas they’re not otherwise likely to come across, arguments they’re otherwise unlikely to see. Same for editorials in a decent paper. Wouldn’t be worth subscribing to papers that only printed editorials I agreed with [however wise and prudent they would be to do that.] I can’t think of a paper I’ve ever read regularly that didn’t take editorial stands I disagreed with, sometimes strongly. NY Times, NY Herald Trib [deceased], NewsDay, Wisconsin State Journal, Madison Capitol Times, Baton Rouge Morning Advocate, Baton Rouge Capitol Times [deceased], SL Trib, Standard Examiner, Chicago Trib, Champaign News-Gazette, New Orleans Times-Picayune. All of them.

    But that was only one reason papers are still important. Another is that nobody, but nobody, covers local news like a daily paper. Nobody. Certainly we can’t depend on SLC TV news for coverage of Ogden, Clearfield, Roy, Ogden, North Ogden [etcetera etcetera etcetera] news beyond gory crashes, murders, gang news, fires and a very thin sprinkling beyond that. The SE’s local coverage may not be a muscular as I’d like to see it, or as extensive, but there is absolutely nothing that comes close to it reporting local news. Nothing.

  12. Boj says:

    Even thought I had noticed the classifieds getting smaller I hadn’t really thought too much about the affect KSLClassifieds and Craiglist and even eBay has had on the classified ads until recently. (I admit to using all three a lot)

    I decided to see if there were any motorcycles listed in the SE and found that there were none where I used to see 20-30 a day. I then looked for tools/hardware for sale and saw the same, nothing there

    A few days later I talked to another friend who said he hadn’t seen many bikes at all for over a year.

    Sad becuase I thnk seeing the local ads both in the classifieds and the more traditional ads tells a lot about what the community is all about

  13. Owain says:

    It appears that two embedded links drops posts into the ‘Your comment is awaiting moderation’ bit bucket, so I’ll disguise my links.

    Well, here’s another editoral designed to appeal to Utah conservatives, this time in the national opinion section.

    www-dot-standard-dot-net/topics/opinion/2010/09/01/where-has-all-love-gone

    Charles. You really should be pissed at this guy. He’s stealing from your blog. Or are you stealing from him? Either way, there is a creepy Journo-List vibe coming off this.

    en-dot-wikipedia-dot-org/wiki/JournoList

  14. Kris Baker says:

    The Tribune has an interesting op-ed today by Peg McEntee, pointing out how the “new” Deseret News handled an LDS Church-related story yesterday.

    Sadly, though, many missed the point.

    I thought McEntee clearly explained what had happened, yet some DN supporters totally missed the point. That shows me that many readers do not understand journalism.

    As for classified ad revenue: who’s going to pay $30-$40 for a garage sale ad, when you can put it on craigslist for free?

    No one ever mentions it, but the internet is becoming the biggest job-killer around.
    When’s the last time anyone here used a travel agency, bought an encyclopedia, paid to read ALL the newspapers one reads online, stepped into a locally-owned retail store?

    The list of businesses (and jobs) that have disappeared since the internet age, would be interesting reading.

  15. Owain says:

    “No one ever mentions it, but the internet is becoming the biggest job-killer around.”

    The internet gives, and the internet takes away. The internet has created jobs that never existed before, and has given opportunities to entrepeneurs to thrive in a way that wouldn’t have been possible if their only choice was the traditional brick and morter business model.

    Things change.

  16. Scott Lloyd says:

    Hi, Charlie.

    Been 25 years now since I left the Standard. I still remember you well.

    I enjoy your blog and appreciate your fair and sensible treatment of this very painful event.

    Scott Lloyd

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