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June 6, 2008

Corporate News Media Management Insanity

-- by Thomas Leavitt

The new owners of the Tribune Co., which publishes the L.A. Times and the Chicago Tribune (among other papers), are going to be making widespread changes to their 12 publications, including massive layoffs, and balancing content and advertising in a 50/50 ratio on news pages, according to the New York Times, in an article entitled: Tribune Co. Plans Sharp Cutbacks at Papers.

Here's the "logic" they're using:

...the struggling company has looked at the column inches of news produced by each reporter, and by each paper’s news staff. Finding wide variation, they said, they have concluded that it could do without a large number of news employees and not lose much content.

This makes about as much sense as measuring computer programmers by how many lines of code they produce. In other words, none at all. Based on what I read in the article, you can kiss goodbye to serious journalism at any of these newspapers.



Mr. Michaels [chief operating officer] said that, after measuring journalists’ output, “when you get into the individuals, you find out that you can eliminate a fair number of people while eliminating not very much content.” He added that he understood that some reporting jobs naturally produce less output than others.

Yeah, sure. He "understands". That's why his metrics emphasize quantity over quality, and he puts a newspaper that has won 37 Pulitzer prices (the LAT) in the same category as one that has won two (the HC).

The Los Angeles Times produced 51 pages of news for each journalist there, while the figure for two other Tribune papers, The Baltimore Sun and The Hartford Courant, is more than 300 pages.

In other words, the staff at the LAT are bleeped.

Surveys show readers want “maps, graphics, lists, ranking and stats,” [Mr. Zell, chief executive officer and chairman] wrote. “We’re in the business of satisfying customers, and we will respond to what they say they want.”

Who the BLEEP do they think bothers to pick up a newspaper at this point? High school dropouts?!?

Posted by Thomas Leavitt at June 6, 2008 11:31 AM

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Comments

But, but, don't you know that most people get their news from the internet?
I'm sorry. I don't see anything to concern me about the corporate news media's management that is really any different than it was a decade ago. I suppose I don't really care because I've never had the luxury of "being spoiled" by some BIG NEWS PAPER. For the last thirty-plus years, I've lived in Alabama where the local newspapers get more than 80% of ALL the news from the wire services (which, in turn, get their news from the BIG NEWS PAPERS). About the only news that is locally-produced is LOCAL news; the front page of the Montgomery Advertiser for Sunday, June 8, 2008 had three articles--two written by local reporters (one article on a local minister's denomination-dictated "retirement" and one on a Home Depot store's now officially being in a neighboring community*) and one from the AP (about the historic nature of the 2008 elections).
I've read some of the BIG NEWS PAPERS and haven't really been all that impressed. The reality is that if you look at the TV network news programs over the last 20 years, you'll see that they've all cut back operations to varying degrees only to find themselves scrambling when a major news event happens where they don't have immediate access. But they've also found something in the past few years which has helped them: The internet. All it takes now for BIG NEWS to go worldwide is someone with a webcam and internet access or a cell phone camera. Print news operations can rely on the internet just as easily. Their reporters can be anywhere and file a story. Hell, they don't even need staff reporters any more; virtually anyone can now call themselves a "journalist" simply by writing a blog and getting it on the web. If there's enough interest, someone will start paying them for their "news".


*This had to do with annexation and property and sales tax issues which is why it was so newsworthy.

Posted by: JosephW [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 8, 2008 11:45 PM

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