April 8, 2008

More Good News: Seattle Times Axes 200

cheeseburger%20cover.jpg
Forgotten Readers of the Seattle Times

The "team" responsible for tossing litter onto my lawn every so often grew smaller today. Seattle Times to Cut Approximately 200 Employees via The Stranger "Seattle's Only Newspaper"

A memo just promulgated onto the web by the odious "Stranger" details the reasons for the mass sackings -- 45 from the newsroom. [Full text after the jump] The money shot is right up on top with

Our circumstances are in line with the newspaper industry nationally, which continues to see steep declines particularly in areas of Classified ad revenue and also a slowing of online revenue growth.
Translation: 1) Craigslist bites deep in high-tech metro areas these days, so deep that large bleeding chunks of staff are now being torn from the news body. 2) Online revenue ain't making it either since who wants to go to the website of a dead-tree product they don't read in the first place? And even if they did, the money sites get from ads online just isn't at all in the realm of what they get for print ads.

Online ad revenues, often touted by blathering publishers with "a vision", never have and never will replace the revenue lost to the print edition.

Of course, the real elephant drooling in the room of newspapers like the Seattle Times these days is "the forgotten reader." These are the potential readers who, because of the unremitting liberal tone and slant of the Times in both the news hole and on the editorial page, loathe the Times and the whole sector of Seattle society it represents.

Now you may say, in a town as overwhelmingly liberal as Seattle, "Screw those troglodyte, Republican morons!" Well, you can say that but then you will, sooner or later, fire 200 of your employees. And that will be only the start.

Why? Because in an "overwhelmingly liberal town" you are talking about, at most, around 55% of the potential readership that agrees with you. This means you are leaving about 45% of potential readership out of the equation altogether. King County has about 2 million people. That means that 45% of potential readership is not at all a trivial number, and yet the Seattle Times takes every opportunity to alienate them. Result: Mass sackings and many millions lost.

And yet the Seattle Times, as well as numerous other newspapers now dying in the US, never ever cops to its point of view as the reason why it is failing.

icanhascheezburger.jpgThis is like some postmodern purist hamburger joint that won't put cheeseburgers on the menu. There's 100 people who want either a hamburger or a cheeseburger, but the cooks only want to make hamburgers. For 55 people, that's great, but there's 45 people who won't ever again go to the Chez Hamburger Only / No Cheeseburger joint.

The ownership notices that the business is drifting downwards because of the lack of cheeseburger. It talks to the cooks and begs them to just, every so often, slap a slice of cheese on a burger, but the cooks say, "No, we are "chefs" and the cheese on the burger is an abomination! Besides, everyone who comes in here feels the same way about the cheese on the burger concept. As do our friends and family, who would stop talking to us if we put the cheese on the burger, even to save our ass. We are pure. There shall be no cheese on the burger on our watch!"

"But," the owner points out, "the people who wish to have the little small morsel of cheese on the burger are going to the place of the hamburger and the cheeseburger! They are not the few, but 45% of what we could have for our business. Please, please place the cheese on the burger."

The cooks -- now "chefs of the future" -- say, "Non! Mais Non! We have our standards and our standards say that the cheese on the burger will never, NEVER, be served here!"

And the owners bow to the haughty chefs of the Times, for, lo, they have won awards from their peers that they will never stop gassing about. The owners bow to them and then they fire them. Or some of them. But never, ever, the head chefs who will continue to refuse the cheese for the burger. After all, it is not the fault of the chefs that almost half the people who would eat of the burger of cheese have now learned to never, ever eat at the rChez Hamburger Only / No Cheeseburger joint. No. It is never the fault of the chefs. It is always the fault of the Internet and the millions of stands up and down the Info Highway that serve hamburgers and cheeseburgers and classified ads -- for free.


Memo Warning! We have detected that this memo contains about 85% Toxic corporate bullshit. Read at your own risk.

Date: April 7, 2008 To: Seattle Times Employees

From: Frank Blethen and Carolyn Kelly [CEO and COO, respectively]


Due to the continued and increased loss of traditional newspaper revenue for both The Seattle Times and the Seattle P-I, we will be making necessary expense reductions. Our circumstances are in line with the newspaper industry nationally, which continues to see steep declines particularly in areas of Classified ad revenue and also a slowing of online revenue growth.

We had hoped the expense reductions made at the beginning of the year would prevent the need for further downsizing, but that is not the case. The only responsible action to take is to better align our expenses to the reduced revenue we now anticipate.

The SOC team has identified approximately $15 million in budget reductions that will be implemented over the next two months. These include significant changes to the way we do business and involve realignment and centralization throughout our organization. You will hear more about the specific changes in departmental meetings.

The most difficult part of these changes involves a reduction of our workforce of approximately 200 positions through a combination of freezing open positions and a significant number of layoffs. This is not an action we take lightly—we recognize and regret that these decisions have a considerable impact on people’s lives.

Most affected employees are being notified today. In certain job categories, Expressions Of Interest (voluntary separations) are being considered, so there will be some continued uncertainty over the next two weeks until the EOI process has been completed. Alayne Fardella will send out a follow up communication with additional details.

While this is difficult news, it is important to note that the Seattle Times Company and the brands we represent remain market leaders. Our audience reach in print and online is deep and broad in the greater Puget Sound. Strategic and thoughtful changes to the way we do business will allow us to be positioned for the future.

Our success is based on our public service mission and our people. We are grateful for each individual’s contribution toward sustaining The Seattle Times as an independent and meaningful voice in our community far into the future.

Breakdown of axings is at Seattle Times to slash 200 jobs - The Puget Sound Business Journal "In a separate e-mail from Alayne Fardella, senior vice president, business operations, she said there could be up to 49 people laid off in the newsroom."

The Times' report on its executions is at Business & Technology | Seattle Times Co. to cut 200 jobs at flagship paper | Seattle Times Newspaper "Today's cuts come on top of $21 million the newspaper sliced from its budget earlier this year. In January, the company said it was laying off 17 employees, eliminating 69 positions through attrition, and eliminating or combining some newspaper sections."

Posted by Vanderleun at April 8, 2008 9:41 AM | TrackBack
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

No mention of how many trees will be saved.

Posted by: ChiefTestPilot at April 8, 2008 12:58 PM

I could tolerate the liberal slant in the newspaper, in the movie reviews, the comics, etc. I will not tolerate the slant on the Editorial page. It isn't in the overwhelmingly liberal slant of the editors (Joni Balter, Marc Trahant, et al) or the columnists, it's also the slant of every letter to the editor that they choose to print.

Back in 2000, when they endorsed Bush I had thought there might be a chance they could "right the ship" , but it was not to be. They quickly returned to the reflexive liberalism; in the Gubernatorial election of 2004 their unbiased cheer-leading for Gregoire only enhanced their already leftward tilt.

I wonder if a Rupert Murdoch type media tycoon would consider taking over and fixing the list before the whole ship rolls over and sinks.....

Posted by: R. Ford Mashburn at April 8, 2008 3:30 PM

My bigger question is, at what point does a newspaper cease to be a valid reporting arm? It would be an interesting MBA/Doctorate study. I suspect that the NYT is very close to being unable to do national news using staff only. So they may quickly become only a regional paper. Which I think is good as they have too much influence thru the wire services.

On another note, CBS right now is attempting to line up news feeds from CNN. That is preparatory to them reducing in-house staff. Imagine, CBS will be CNN with Couric as the head of that chicken.

Posted by: JohnMc at April 8, 2008 3:44 PM

Another thing newspapers ignore is the hinterlands of the cities where they are published. I can't speak for Seattle specifically, but I imagine that any newspaper based in a large city would want to compete for readership in the entire region, state, or even adjoining states. These readers are often - if not always - more conservative than those in the city.

They instead patronize them. They think that by publishing little regional supplements with news such as "Hicksville Pork Queen To Be Named At Local Fair" they will keep their readership.

Posted by: Freddy Hill at April 8, 2008 3:47 PM

Good point that. Patronizing is just the word.

Posted by: vanderleun at April 8, 2008 4:03 PM

Great one, Gerard.

I've been a foreign correspondent for a mere two years, and I'm doing just fine. I can pull it off, and they can't?

It must be that cheese I put on the burgers. If I were publishing AP-style meat-only reports on my site, I'd be losing my shirt.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at April 8, 2008 4:11 PM

I believe it was in an editorial meeting at the Seattle Times that they cheered when the guilty verdict was announced for Scooter Libby. One of their head honchos had to take them up on that but I think people got the flavor of what they are about. The other problem is if you live in the Seattle area (and I do) your other choice is the Seattle P-I which is every bit as liberal. I spend my Sunday mornings ranting out loud to my wife as I read the editorial page. I send in letters constantly but since they give the conservative viewpoint it is almost impossible to see them printed.

Posted by: bigbooner at April 8, 2008 4:17 PM

Same thing in Houston with the Houston Chronicle. I finally gave up on it about two years ago. Houston is a relatively conservative city--but that is impossible to tell from its newspaper. 90% of the Chronicle's "news" is reprints from the NYT, Washington Post or LA Times. The very little reporting actually done consists of rehashing and rewording left-wing Democratic party talking points. The Chronicles's editors can't seem to grasp that if I want to read left-wing propoganda I can do so without having to buy their paper. Houston could use a real paper talking about what is going on here--we don't have one.

Posted by: Richard at April 8, 2008 4:20 PM

Seattle could use such a paper as well. I've often thought about starting a Seattle Weekly -- not with a conservative viewpoint, but with a centrist viewpoint. It would appear conservative in Seattle since there would be nothing like it.

What Seattle has, weekly, is two -- count 'em two -- free weeklies which specialize in liberal, leftist content coupled with a sheaf of sex ads.

My weekly wouldn't take any sex ads at all and would look at all those hundreds of thousands of readers who wanted balanced reporting and no obscene ads in their homes.

I'd bet there would be a market.

Posted by: vanderleun at April 8, 2008 4:29 PM

All I'd need is a couple of million. Other than that, I've done it before. If it works in Seattle, we can roll it out to every other city in America.

The Fox News of free weekly local papers.

Posted by: vanderleun at April 8, 2008 4:31 PM

Come on, guys, what are you smoking?

1)Your conservative audience for a comfy newspaper is already wed to the Fox channels; wooing them back to print would be difficult and costly.

2)Don't tell me that Craig's list won't hurt a conservative paper. Take a look at the AZ Republic, which is definitely not left-wing. They've had to collapse the 6-8 pp biz section into a 2-p part of the local news section on Mondays; saves a lot of newsprint.

3) Why, oh why, has there never been a free local news weekly with a conservative or perhaps libertarian point of view??? At least, never one that I've seen or heard of. If I'm wrong, point me in the right direction.

Michael Totten is a gem in a rather rotten crowd of reporters -- but I wonder how many Tottens there are and how we could individually afford them...

Julie

Posted by: GrannyJ at April 8, 2008 5:02 PM

Sign us up. Kansas City is poorly served by the KC (Red) Star and our own massage outcall weekly. Hemingway learned to write at the Kansas City Star. Now, instead of a byline he'd only learn to write the party line.

I worked for Knight-Ridder for 10 years before Tony Ridder drove it into the ground. We had a newsroomful of treehugging leftie wonks but a few grownups in charge. They might have been right wing, might have been lefties, I don't know. Which is how it should be. Pretty good newsgroup, at least until Tony's dad died and Tony took over. Citizen Kane, he ain't.

Posted by: Carl H at April 8, 2008 5:05 PM

In reply to Granny J, who asked if there were any conservative free weeklies, the New York Press is a prominent free weekly newspaper. It was founded by a libertarian/conservative editor/CEO Russ Smith, who wrote a weekly column called "Mugger".

Under Smith's leadership the NY Press was ideologically diverse, but definitely presented some libertarian/conservative ideas. Some letter writers hated the paper, but seemed to find it sufficiently interesting to read. I thought it was great, always interesting, a writer's paper, which also carried things like the graphic art of Ben Katchor. ("Julius Knipl, real estate photographer")

The NY Press has sadly declined, both in market share and interest, since Smith sold it.

Posted by: Mike M at April 8, 2008 5:24 PM

I like The Stranger. Unlike the Times or PI, it doesn't even pretend to be unbiased (although it shouldn't be brought into households with immature members).

It's not the pervasive slant of the Times that bothers me; it's that their writers seem to sincerely believe they are being fair.

After all, everyone knows that Bush is stupid, the illegal war is all about oil, Republicans are fascists, and Liberals really will improve your life by controlling it for you. . . that's not a bias, those are just facts. Really. Just ask anyone at the Times.

Posted by: David D at April 8, 2008 5:25 PM

Meanwhile, here in Oklahoma City, the Oklahoman is hiring.

Oklahoma City, incidentally, is 99-point-something percent sure to be the new home of the NBA team currently known as the Seattle SuperSonics.

What can we learn from this? (And what can Seattle learn from this?)

Posted by: CGHill at April 8, 2008 5:44 PM

What you've left out of your cheeseburger analogy -- I can't believe you don't realize it -- is that it isn't just the 45% that you lose.

I like cheeseburgers; my wife doesn't -- she says she can't taste the cheese, so why pay extra? She would be content with the hamburger-only joint, but I would not. The result is that they not only lose me (part of the 45%, which they've already discounted) but my wife, too, since only one of us can be satisfied with burger only, where both of us can get what we want elsewhere.

Regards,
Ric

Posted by: Ric Locke at April 8, 2008 6:02 PM

While I don't think that lack of a conservative viewpoint is the only factor in the general decline of newspapers, it pushed me to stop reading the Washington Post more than a year ago. Their unbridled cheerleading for that cypher Jim Webb for Senator and relentless bashing of George Allen (who was no great shakes) drew an "Oops, my bad!" comment from their ombudsman when the were called on it. I voted with my wallet. In canceling my subscription, the phone rep gave me an email address and said management welcomed messages from their readers. My response was that the financial message that I was sending would speak far more loudly than any email I could send.

Posted by: LD652 at April 8, 2008 6:22 PM

"Oklahoma City, incidentally, is 99-point-something percent sure to be the new home of the NBA team currently known as the Seattle SuperSonics.

What can we learn from this? (And what can Seattle learn from this?)"

What you might learn is that it doesn't profit a city to buy into and maintain a 4th rate basketball team like the Sonics.

Good luck with them, they're bums.

Posted by: vanderleun at April 8, 2008 6:34 PM

Nothing personal, CG.

it's just that as far as these sports franchise items go, the Sonics are the bottom of the sump pump.


Posted by: vanderleun at April 8, 2008 6:35 PM

The problem with most US newsrooms (let's not limit this to newspapers) is that it is simply impossible to express a different (conservative) view about most subjects, in a story or even in conversation in the newsroom.

It's not just that you will encounter disbelief, suspicion and even some outright hostility for your views, it's much worse. If your 'take' on the story is different from those of a liberal bent, it's not just that you have a different view that many of your colleagues think is odd: that wouldn't be so bad if that were all.

It's that you don't get what's 'news' about the subject. Your professional ability in itself is called into question. In essence, you're no good at what you do, which justifies pressuring you to shut up or eventually leave the industry. After all, there's no room for incompetence, is there?

So to give just one possible example, if you were to wonder why a right to life march of 1,000 people didn't get the same type of coverage as a pro-choice rally of maybe 200 people, or perhaps was totally ignored, that would in most newsrooms be interpreted to mean that you 'didn't get' what was newsworthy on that particular day.

And since every day presents a new combination of possible events to cover ('news'), every day will offer a new combination of reasons to ignore the right to life march. There will never be room in the newspaper, enough staff on hand, there will be more important things, etc. The people who want the story to be ignored, will on any given day always be able to find a 'professionally justifiable' reason for doing so.

It's not so different from the guys you used to hear claiming that they really wanted to hire a woman ... they just couldn't find the right one. There was always a good reason for rejecting any particular woman. The fact is, this behavior was a pattern that was only (at least partly) broken through recourse to the law. Sadly, there is no way to do that with news coverage.

Your colleagues will not let you do your job dispassionately; you must hate Republicans, you must have certain views on social issues, you have to despise most people in any position of power or leadership (a large part of the daily talk in most newsrooms is mocking the people you cover) who are assumed to have totally venal motives for anything they do.

In kind of the way that somebody like Clarence Thomas is not considered to be really black because he is a conservative, you are not really a "professional journalist" if you hold conservative views, as this in itself shows you don't understand what is news.

Since news judgement is a subjective issue, this attitude works its way through every step of the process: what you cover, how much space (air time) it gets, how it is displayed and packaged; who you call, what you ask, how much of their comments you use, in what order, who you call for the 'opposing' view and also what they're asked etc. ... every one of these steps is subjective in most cases (leaving aside such examples as calling the police about a crime story and the like). Even the words you use are subjective. Identifiers are subjective; thus, the propensity to label conservatives as such but not liberals.

Anything you do in this process can be justified by 'news judgement' which is nothing more than the consensus opinion of the newsroom (and in the industry) on any given day -- and since most of those people think virtually alike ... there you are.

Posted by: Been there, done that at April 8, 2008 7:56 PM

They don't get it here in Philly either. They have had layoffs in each of the last 3-4 years but the paper's liberal slant is unrelenting. I could blame the editor but I believe journalists just tend to be like-minded libs and not very smart either.

Local news is the way to go but they all want to do mational stories which sound like what I get from the NYT or NBC or WAPO.

Posted by: AJ Lynch at April 8, 2008 8:04 PM

I've promoted the comment by Been There to the front page as:

Liberalosis: The Newsroom Disease @ AMERICAN DIGEST


Excellent.

Posted by: vanderleun at April 8, 2008 9:10 PM

BTDT's comment is It, in a nutshell.
Well said, sir.

Posted by: Mark at April 8, 2008 11:14 PM

... but the cooks say, "No, we are "chefs" and the cheese on the burger is an abomination!

That's literally true. To combine dairy products with meat products ... G-d forbid!

Posted by: Bill Woods at April 8, 2008 11:15 PM

It is no wonder that the mainstream media thinks that the economy is going down the toilet, even though unemployment is lower now than it was when Clinton rode a "booming" economy to victory in 1996 - the mainstream media is going the way of the buggy whip manufacturers, and thinks that their experience is representative of all the rest of us, too.

Posted by: Ed Minchau at April 8, 2008 11:32 PM

I'm taking a huge dump one this website... HURRGHGHGLEH! splash!

Posted by: Bill at April 9, 2008 2:16 AM

I subscribe to the Washington Times (daily) and the Washington Post (Sunday only).

I learned a long time ago to toss the Sunday Post Outlook (commentary) section into the recycling bin before doing anything else.

It won't be too long long before I do the same to the "A" section.

Posted by: Dave Crowder at April 9, 2008 4:22 AM

I caught NPR yesterday, talking about developments at the Tribune Corporation, and at its "flagship" The Titani^H^H^H^H^H^HLos Angeles Times, including the new owner berating the LA Times staff as overhead. Apparently, the LA Times is a loss-leader for Tribune.

The segment included a whimpering bit from a former Tribune Corporation journalist, who admitted himself "confused" about developments in the industry.

The bit about the Tribune Corporation was followed by a "more in sadness than in anger" bit by NPR's favorite gaseous bloviator, Daniel Schorr, who went on for a bit about CBS and its impending decision to outsource part of its news reporting to CNN - all so it can continue to pay perky Katie Couric (TV's Eva Braun) $15 million per annum.

The whole ten minute piece was filled with a sense of entitlement and arrogance, and rage that the world should change and stop kowtowing to journalists.

Typical end of an era stuff.

Posted by: Patrick Carroll at April 9, 2008 4:38 AM

Hasten the day when the front page of the New York Times features a photo showing a helicopter atop the Seattle Times building evacuating Frank Blethen, along with the loyal remnants of his Leadership Council, to Okinawa...and safety.

And underneath Blethen's arm will be seen a reverently folded copy of...the last Seattle Times issue.

Posted by: MarkJ at April 9, 2008 5:16 AM

V: Nothing personal taken.

What's telling about the Sonics affair is simply this: the city is obviously ready to wash its hands of the whole thing, but for the sake of appearances (or something a bit less subtle) they're going to drag it out in court, for two years if necessary. It's like they bought Ronco's Pocket Face Spite Kit and are getting ready to strike a blow against the municipal nose.

Which is symptomatic of something else: they've been telling themselves they were Something Special for so long that they've started to believe it. (Likewise true of journalists, who seem to have supplanted actual reporters these days.)

Posted by: CGHill at April 9, 2008 6:01 AM

I've been saying for years that it's a really, really bad business plan to spend a lot of time, energetically . . . s p i t t i n g . . . on about half your potential customers. It may feel good in the short term but in the long term it will hurt you. This simple idea is beyond the grasp of most newspaper owners, editors, columnists and reporters.

Here's a message to journalists, columnists, newsreaders such as Jennings and Brokaw, divas such as Gregory. That contempt you've shown for the 50% of voters who disagree with you . . . it's coming right back at you. Your dogma is getting run over by your karma.

Posted by: DJ at April 9, 2008 9:51 AM

Burn, baby, burn.

The MSM deserve bankruptcy and unemployment more than anyone else I can think of, and I look forward to watching their entire industry implode.

Posted by: Pat at April 9, 2008 11:20 AM

When the local papers call selling subscriptions I tell them I'll never again pay for a newspaper. I already watch virtually no TV news. And yet oddly I am up on everything...hmmm, how could that be?

These people cannot lose their jobs soon enough. We'll get by just fine.

Posted by: Peg C. at April 9, 2008 11:38 AM

A few years ago our local rag sent salesmen out to canvass suburbia for subscriptions. My mother was busy cleaning fish and my husband was painting when the doorbell rang, so I had no one to help keep the puppy from chewing on the shoelaces of the nice young man at the door. The parakeet was squawking so loudly that it took a while for him to understand that we didn't have any need for the paper.

Posted by: Delayna at April 10, 2008 6:36 PM

Quite a few years ago my cancellation of the Seattle Times brought on a call from the subscription department. Asked the reason for my cancellation I replied that I found the paper's constantly liberal poistion unfair and that for the most part I didn't think that the editorial staff at the Times had ever seen a tax they didn't like. "I'll tell the editorial department your view but I don't think it will have any effect," was her reply. She was obviously correct. I feel sorry for the folks at the PI losing their jobs, but on the other hand, I wasn't subcdribing and wouldn't support their publishing effort any way. I pretty much feel the same about the Times.

Posted by: Walt at March 16, 2009 11:52 PM
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