Thursday, March 12, 2009

Fight for the thing!

Last night I went back and read the various business documents from Booth that were shared with me about the impending plan to scale back operations at least at the Flint Journal, Bay City Times and Saginaw News.

For my own peace of mind, I also shared them with a couple of trusted friends, former employees, for their assessment of what the internal documents said. All agreed that my interpretation of them was accurate, if not unnecessarily muted.

So here we are two days later and the only response from the newspapers so far publicly (and internally, I am told) is that "everything is on the table." No denials, no repudiation of what has been written here and, by the way, no request for a retraction or correction.

I'm told the editor told his staff yesterday morning that "my office is open, but my mouth is closed." Any good reporter knows that when someone ducks a "yes or no" question with a vague answer, they are usually confirming the information they won't comment on.

I've read the passionate comments from readers and employees alike. I hope management is reading along as well. But maybe they can't.

A person who works at the Journal, not in the editorial department, told me that this site is electronically blocked at the paper. If true, that's a terrible example from a so-called defender of the First Amendment.

The other night as I contemplated posting the original information my wife was surprised when my voice broke as I read her from the document. She wondered why. "This is like a death," I told her. A death of something very near and dear to me. And, of course, near and dear to people I care about very much.

But what really troubles me is that this so-called business plan to save the papers, is nothing more than a several page death wish. This isn't saving the papers, it is ritual suicide. It is what Japanese admirals did when their plans failed in World War II.

Not to get too dramatic, but this plan, the very one they are considering right now, and that I published here on Tuesday, is France in World War II. It's the Iraqi Army in Desert Storm. It quite simply is surrender. And I think they know it.

Carve the paper back to three days a week and the readers and advertisers will flee in greater numbers than they already have. I'm a simple-minded retired reporter and if I can see it, why can't some expensive suit see this as well.

Dismember more of the creative and hardworking folks that produce, sell and deliver the papers and your future is gone. Forever.

Dr. Kevorkian (and remember I knew Dr. Kevorkian well) could not have designed a better suicide machine than the one being proposed for the newspapers here.

This is a child about to put a fork in a light socket, "don't do it."

Dismantle your daily operation and you will do Humpty Dumpty and it will be impossible to put back together again.

Do you need more metaphors?

Not that the company will ever listen to me, but they should listen to the voices of the people who want the papers to survive and step back from the brink. When you are faced with a danger you have two choices, "flight or fight."

Choose to go down fighting. It's worth it for the paper, it's important to the community and you could make some history. Turn loose those reporters and advertising sales people to do what they were trained and are passionate to do without the current lame management that is holding them back.

Look more toward the front page, than the bottom line. You're a newspaper stupid, your survival is tied to the product more than ever. Gutting it only leaves you less to sell.

If you can't do that, try and sell the paper to someone who will. Although that will be nearly impossible in the current market, it will be impossible once the human infrastructure is gone. It's not too late to turn back from the brink.

41 comments:

Anonymous said...

Nice to see the Newhouses on the just-released Forbes billionaires 2008 list. What a hit they took last year in a horrible market, growing their fortune from $7.3 billion each to $8.5 billion each. They are the 34th richest men in the U.S., and 104th richest in the world. Maybe that's why they're hurting so bad. They were the 100th richest men in the world in 2007. Slash employees and they'll be right back in the top 100.

http://www.forbes.com/lists/2008/10/billionaires08_The-Worlds-Billionaires_CountryOfCitizen_28.html

Tom Gantert said...

Freefromeditors,
I read your list of plans for the Flint, Bay City and Saginaw newspapers.
Almost all of them have been well known to anyone in the Advance newspaper chain as a possibility going on a year now.
Item No. 4 about reduced pay and benefits is the only one that hasn't been specifically discussed among management and reporters. I'm sure you are aware of the benefits package currently given to Advance employees. You won't find a more luxurious plan on this planet. In this economy, to expect that to continue is unrealistic.
Reduced pay would be an issue and most of us are interested to see how that plays out. Auto companies have made some of their white-collar executives take 20% cuts. That's been reported.
But you made a statement that I'm going to call you out on:
You wrote: "Carve the paper back to three days a week and the readers and advertisers will flee in greater numbers than they already have. I'm a simple-minded retired reporter and if I can see it, why can't some expensive suit see this as well."
I would argue it's that very thinking that got newspapers into the situation they are.
The only thing worse in the current situation newspapers face than taking a bold action that fails is taking no action, which is what I would say has been the newspaper industry's plan up until now.
Ignore the Internet, continue print operations as normal and you can ride this out. That's not working, as you appear to chronicle ad nauseum on your blog.
Damned if you do, damned if you don't appears to be your philosophy. I've tried to find one thing on your blog that wasn't critical of newspaper management and haven't found one yet, but I only went back to January of 2009.
I'm not so sure you haven't turned into the Paul Revere of pessimism.
Your premise that readers and advertisers will flee is an underwhelming argument at best.
Have you seen the readership and advertising trends in the past 20 years?
I don't know of anyone still in the newspaper business that doesn't foresee an all-technological industry within 10 years.
When was that transformation to begin?
The sad part is that a fraction of the newspaper personel will be needed for that.
Jim Hopkins does another newspaper blog about Gannett. When he posted the profit margins of the newspapers in 2007 (all substantially into the double digits), I asked him why he thought Gannett would cut jobs when they had healthy if not robust profit margins.
His response was they were preparing for the move to the Internet and far fewer people needed.
That means fewer resources will be needed. Fewer jobs. Newspapers will no longer need circulation departments.
Good or bad, this is progress when it comes to technology when you are in an industry that dragged its feet for the past 15 years.
There is no business model for this.
So Advance is trying to figure one out, just like the rest of the newspaper world.
The Detroit newspapers are doing the same thing. They say to their readers they don't know if it will work but they are trying to keep the newspaper alive.
You want to fight it. Have fun drifting out to sea on that iceberg.

Jim of L-Town said...

Fair enough Tom, but what you, and others, don't address is what to do with that loyal, say 40,000 to 50,000 readers in the Flint, Bay City and Saginaw area that are still wedded to the printed product.

Don't believe me, talk to the circulation people at the Detroit papers who are literally begging their older readers to try the Internet product before they go paperless most days.

Take my wife for one. She will NOT read a newspaper on the web. I do. I've tried to introduce her to it and she hates reading off a screen.

So your model, and that of the Detroit papers, is to simply write them off, say good-bye and be darned to the advertisers who still want to reach that demographic.

My argument is, and will remain, that the news business is in transition. Sure, you have to have an online presence (this is a blog afterall) but one that PAYS.

Who, sir, is going to produce all this wonderful news for the Internet when all these folks are gone? A bunch of homebound bloggers.

That's like telling GM, the solution to your problem is to quite making the cars people want and drive now, dump them all and start making the Chevrolet Volt tomorrow. Not going to work for GM and its not going to work for newspapers.

I may be the Paul Revere of Pessimism, but you seem to be the Pollyanna of the Internet.

Anonymous said...

Ding, ding, ding. Winner: Jim-of-L-Town.

Anonymous said...

I wonder how it will be if those papers just print really, really good stories on those days. Serious investigative stuff and narratives readers absolutely can't get anywhere else. Almost like a niche publication — the niche being quality.

The thing is, I worked at The Saginaw News for awhile, and it wasn't clear that a lot of readers there wanted the good stuff. We had some good reporters and some good stories on important stuff while I was there. Saginaw is a crazy news town. But the most excitement I ever heard from readers was when the press ran the "Family Circus" caption off the page.

Tom Gantert said...

I would guess Henry Ford heard the same comments from people who refused to drive a car and stick with the horse and buggy.
The newspaper business is still looking for its version of the Model T, the car that put "America on wheels."
I would tell your wife this: " It's not 1984 anymore. Get over it."
I'm sure that when she wants to check her checking account, she doesn't drive down to the bank and ask for a statement, does she? That same technology that allows her the ease and convenience of doing banking from her living room is not quarantined to just banking.
You can't ignore what technology has done to society.
You have to embrace it, or be left out. Newspapers are learning that the hard way. We are so far behind in playing catch up on the Internet, it's sad.
Let me ask you this. Look at the successful car websites such as autotrader.com. How did a national website take over what is almost a purely local market (buying and selling cars, I mean, you really don't WANT to drive to Columbus for that used car you want, do you?) We should have monopolized that market. It's because we catered as a business to "loyal readers" instead of paying attention to the market. The entire newspaper industry got arrogant and lazy. We ignored Craigslist instead of treating it as a competitor.
Newspapers are a business. "Loyal readers" are who we write for, but they never paid the bills. Advertisers did. It's time to start paying attention to the people who pay the bills.
If you go on very popular and profitable (from what I've read) websites like ESPN, when you want to look at a popular video or now look at a NBA boxscore, you have to sit through 15-to-30 second video ads that can't be clicked away). I've seen the Vicks Vapor Rub ad about 100 times. Have you seen ONE newspaper go to this? I haven't. Why not?
How about if every article that was clicked on came with a 10-second video advertisement. If you want to read it, you'll wait. If you don't, then maybe we should be posting more interesting stories, eh?
The next three years are going to be a painfully brutal process for newspapers because their reinvention has been put off for so long. That little lump that was felt in 1994 and was brushed off has now spread to every organ of the body because it was ignored.
A lot of good people won't be part of it.
Will it work? I don't know. Nobody does because it hasn't been tried.
But it's about time it did.

Anonymous said...

I am sure when they plan on announcing it we will just read it on the front page!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Jim,

You can read your blog from The Flint Journal. That blocking thing is bunk.

Anonymous said...

Wait...they put the plans on paper and expected them to remain internal?

Did they leave extras on the table or in the wastebaskets after meetings in shared conference rooms?

Did they think folks they hired to simplify complicated actions on News pages would not figure out this plan in advance?

989 Design said...

Great post, Jim. I think you're right on the mark. I think that the newspaper industry has been working off an outdated business model and hasn't taken the steps necessary to keep up. Especially the Bay City, Flint, and Saginaw papers—their website is a joke.

Even though the internet is my primary news source, I still read the Bay City Times every day (what little there is left to read, that is), but I imagine that once they eliminate daily delivery that I will cancel my subscription. Unless, of course, they DRASTICALLY reduce subscription rates. They've already cut the content back so far that I have been teetering on the edge of canceling. This will be enough to push me over.

ken scott said...

I can relate to all of this. I work for morningstar publishing at their St. Johns weekly paper. Our parent company JRC filed bankrupcy a few weeks back and we all are feeling the effects of this. It's too bad, I enjoy reading the Journal in hand not on internet. Too bad all us "old newspaper people" can't get together and buy or start a REAL paper..one based on REAL journalism.

inky said...

Let's face it -- most journalists didn't go into newspapers because they are business wizards. They're intellectually curious people (well, most are) who like to find and tell good stories and keep politicians honest.

Pair the smartest business students with the smartest journalists to come up with a sustainable newspaper business model that still gives me something to read while I'm getting my tires rotated at Belle. I do not consider myself a luddite, but like Jim's wife, I have no interest in dragging my laptop around or reading the "paper" from a screen the size of a breath mint. Sorry. So when millions of people like us don't follow the "paper" to the internet, neither will the advertisers who want our money ... or what's left of it.

I do have to challenge Tom on his defense of the Booth/Newhouse pay and benefit package. ("You won't find a more luxurious plan on the planet.") Yes, it was better than average -- especially the insurance -- but let's be honest: They did not pay sustainable wages and benefits out of the goodness of their heart. They did it to keep unions out of the newsrooms.

Jan Scholl said...

Yesterday when the local tv afternoon news carried photos of your blog and talked about this, yet the paper itself was not talking, I felt even worse for the employees. Most of the people who work for newspapers are not famous or wealthy (like Mitch Albom, Roger Ebert etc) and are going day to day like all of us. don't they deserve better? Talk to your employees Booth, treat them like people not commodities.

Anonymous said...

some of the papers have very high readership like Flint, the community is going to be very upset to lose their 7 day papers! Amen, Jim on the comment about turn loose the reporters and ad salespeople to do what we are trained to do. We know how to sell, but get so bogged down with unnecessary tasks that are mandatory to do, and dictated by management that we have fewer selling hours to actually sell.
our advertisers get results from their ads, but again poor leadership, some weak links on the staff and the ridiculous tasks we are required to do hinder the sales process. No word yet from management today-- except a "wait and see" approach.

Anonymous said...

Hey Gantert,

Are you married? Do you tell your wife to "get over it?"

My wife won't read the paper online, either, and I'll bet there are hundreds of thousands like her in Booth cities.

Newspapers walk a fine line. Yes, they must rely more on their Web sites to distribute the news, but at the same time serve their many older readers who either don't have a computer or won't use it to read news.

The experience of Oldsmobile is somewhat analogous. Olds needed to attract new customers and revamped its entire line-up to appeal to younger buyers. But the company couldn't attract enough younger buyers to make up for all the loyal older customers it alienated by eliminated the models they liked. The result, of course, is that Oldsmobile died.

Cadillac was smarter. It, too, revamped it's model line-up, but still kept a model or two for the 55-and-up crowd. No surprise that it became GM's most successful brand.

Jim of L-Town said...

Tom, sorry it took so long to get back to your post but I've been traveling today.

Actually, my wife is still a paper in the hand banker (and she does all the banking in our house).

She refuses to buy online and prefers her bills, etc. to come by mail. She is younger than I.

Again, your example of the horse and buggy is flawed. Sure, as folks moved to cars, the demand for horse and buggies slowed, but, and maybe you didn't know this, there are still horse and buggy makers in America. I know because I used to own horses and purchased them from them for use in horse shows, etc.

For a time in the early part of the 20th Century there was a need for BOTH horse and buggy and car makers. Fisher made the transition, but it didn't do it overnight.

And the folks that used to make the buggies and whips transitioned to jobs in the auto industry where they actually made more money in the long run.

How does that example fit the current one. Seasoned journalists are being furloughed and there is no paid work for them on the Internet.

That's not a transition to online, that is an unpaid dead end.

There is still room for a paid "dead tree" version of a newspaper even if you prefer a Kindle version for yourself.

Like the specialty horse and buggy folks that still supply to a niche audience, so will there be a niche for those who prefer their news to come in a hand held form.

Anonymous said...

Freefromeditors,
Nice post. So when do you think the other Booth publications tank? I see consolidation on the horizon. For example, here on the west side of the state, the Grand Rapids Press becomes the only newspaper, with Muskegon and Kalamazoo becoming bureaus replacing the Muskegon Chronicle and Kalamazoo Gazette, respectively. Management doesn't want to fight anymore. The game seems up. And all the re-structuring plans and high-brow speak is simply akin to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic to this reporter's ears.

Anonymous said...

Jim of L Town with the knockout punch. Nice. Couldn't have said it better: some people think online journalism is the wave of the future. In most ways it is, but not as a sustained, full-time job for most newspaper folk. I think the big question is this: as trained, talented reporters and writers leave the craft, how long will it take for online readers to say enough is enough and demand more thoroughly reported stories by credible sources?

Anonymous said...

Boy, is Tom off the mark.

You don't dictate to people how they will have their news. It won't happen.

When the TV swept into homes in the 50s, people said the radio would go away altogether. Guess what? I still listen to my NPR every morning.

Someone will step in to fill the demand gap. Let's not forget that a newspaper is the ultimate in PORTABILITY, and you don't have to worry when it gets ruined.

"I don't know of anyone still in the newspaper business that doesn't foresee an all-technological industry within 10 years."

That's just MORONIC, sorry. Those of us who actually know what we're talking about see it more like a hybrid: it's likely that most adults will get their big national stories and quick bit headlines from TV or the internet. Newspapers, rightfully so, are cutting back their coverage of these areas. The remaining niche is for hyper local content, and papers that are successfully transitioning through this period are doing just that.

The hardest thing to figure out will be how to make money off the internet, since the horses are already out of the barn on paying for content. And most of us are even less likely to notice an online ad than one in print... we just zone it out at this point. The only hope as I see it is to get to micro advertising -- highly customized messages tailored for the reader's interest and purchase behavior. Advertise something to me that I might actually want.

Anonymous said...

ALL I CAN SAY IS...YOU CAN'T TAKE YOUR COMPUTER IN THE BATH ROOM. WE NEED THE FLINT JOURNAL SEVEN DAYS A WEEK.
COME ON MANAGEMENT THE GREAT ONE IS IN OFFICE AND WE WILL ALL PROSPER SOON. HANG IN THERE....

Anonymous said...

Not so sure about that...my notebook and web enabled phone both work pretty good in the crapper.

Anonymous said...

Maybe you've never dropped one in the toilet.

I'd rather have a ruined newspaper.

Anonymous said...

I cut back reading the Journal when most of its good reporters left with the first buyout.

Suits have this mentality that wire stories are sufficient. You have to still be the watchdog and voice of your community. Once that's gone, your readership follows out the door.

Think of new ways to market the paper before gutting it. MLive, overhaul in place, still isn't where it needs to be to keep readers tuned in. It's still so sterile.

Anonymous said...

How would E-bay work in a news paper? I have always enjoyed the fact that my father worked for a newspaper. Im sure he could tell stories about my teachers asking him if he got a paper cause I did not clip some news story for my homework.

Anonymous said...

Since the newscast of Jim's blog last week, BCT subscribers have been canceling like crazy. I for one would appreciate honesty. It's so wonderful, too, how management has just slipped over the edge -- making no eye contact, making absolutely no attempts at leadership. Not that leadership was ever a strong point anyway. The one person who attempts to offer any guidance whatsoever is immediately neutered by a counterpart, so it's like why bother trying.

I want a printed page I can hold in my hand. I want to do my crossword puzzles on paper, in ink pen, and not on a computer. I don't want to have to search the 'net for my comics. I want daily news on local happenings. I want classified ads that don't include e-bay or craigslist. Obituaries, free & paid, are preferred, on paper. I don't want to leave condolences online.

I'm a third-generation newspaper reader. I want a product that I can read, cut clippings out of, recycle, and drop in the toilet if that should happen some day (rather than ruin an expensive electronic product, as one anonymous posting remarks).

Most old-timers in this area are not going to follow the newspaper online, nor are they going to continue to pay for a 3-x weekly product.

I've always wondered why the powers that be decided to give it all away for free online. Sure, you might not get the local chatty stuff for free -- weddings, engagements, etc. -- but why pay for the cow if you can get the milk for free, albiet electronically?

Why NOT offer online readers a paragraphs of a story, and then announce they must subscribe to read the rest? Why NOT? Or, why not just ignore the 'net in favor of beefing up the printed product and "ride it out," as one submitter suggested?

I'm thinking, too, that management is a bit top-heavy. Typical in every corporation, really, but when half the reporting, sales, etc. staff is cut back and you still have the same number of managers you've always had? Oh, and you hire a new one now and then? WTF????

NAH. Nobody in management needs a management degree or practical hands-on experience. Just get somebody with a "save my own butt" mentality, ignore any suggestions from other staff, and all will be well.

Anonymous said...

I have to say I agree with Tom on this one. I would warn anyone against applying nostalgia to the prudient, necessary business decisions that need to be made and frankly, print media has taken too long to make.

All of you ringing your hands over online journalism are ignoring sites like Salon.com that put out great in-depth Vanity Fair style articles regularly with a cost attached for premium content. And any newspaper in the country wishes they could get even half the readers Huffington Post's on a given day.

I started out in print, interning at the Saginaw News before working at the Bay City Times and then at a paper in Georgia. I have since switched to the dreaded PR (first city government, now higher education) and I have zero complaints. I can tell you from this side of the fence, we're cutting out the middle men -- reporters -- entirely. Colleges and universities are turning their news sections into full-on news centers: news releases, news stories, video, podcasts, edited and packaged for our various audiences and nary a reporter to "cover" us in sight.

On the higher ed side, PR/media relations people recognize 1) print media is on the ropes and will look NOTHING like it did even 10 years ago and 2) people are self-segregating and self-selecting when it comes to media. They can sign up for our news feed and never have to pick up a newspaper in the traditional sense again, meaning we get an audience receiving our message without the filter of media. If a reporter calls based on that, even better, but we aren't holding our breath.

For every person that brags about how their spouses would NEVER read news online, I have a 66-year-old mother with DSL who reads the news every day online and a 67-year-old father who text messages and can upload pictures to go with it. I see no reason to turn up one's nose at technology; it's a reality. At my college where I work, the students coming in were born -- now hold on to your seats -- in 1989 and 1990. You'd never lug around a computer to read a newspaper? Well they really do lug their laptops (avg. weight 3 lbs and getting lighter) to class to take notes and yes, to read the news. They go to the library not to find a librarian who knows the Dewey Decimal System but one who specializes in Chinese literature and can help them compile footage that they'll use in a video and convert to a YouTube link. In fact, most librarians now are called "multimedia specialists" and returning books to the stacks is the very last thing they do in a day. So somebody saying they were NEVER read a newspaper has not only missed the boat but are at the pier on the wrong day, the wrong time and the wrong year.

I was at a conference recently where social media was being discussed. Someone asked about the revelance of Facebook and the answer given applies to this conversation re: the future of newspapers: "You have to go where the people are." The PEOPLE aren't buying newspapers anymore and if they were it wouldn't be enough to keep the industry supporting. In fact, blogs are out of date too as everyone's going to Twitter. Sticking your collective heads in the sand isn't going to change that reality.

Anonymous said...

"The people" like having choices. You say that people have self-segmented, then go on to say that they "missed the boat".

Which is it?

Anonymous said...

TECHNOLOGY IS FINE BUT DON'T FORCE IT ON US. IT'S FINE FOR PEOPLE WHO WANTS TO USE IT...BUT I DON'T. GIVE ME MY PAPER IN MY HAND EVERY DAY AND IM CONTENT AND HAPPY. WHAT KIND OF SOCIETY ARE WE BECOMING, ALL YOU SEE IS YOUNG PEOPLE WITH THERE HEADS BURIED IN A ELECTRONIC DEVICE PLAYING A GAME....ENOUGH SAID.....

Anonymous said...

TYPING IN ALL CAPS.

ENOUGH SAID.

ROFL.

Anonymous said...

Someone posted:

"The people" like having choices. You say that people have self-segmented, then go on to say that they "missed the boat".

Which is it?


There is more than one Anonymous here so that might be where the difficulties are. I'll be AnonymousTG then. T

hat said, I didn't say people like having choices. I said, to paraphrase, that technology is here to stay and sticking one's head in the sand as it relates to journalism is not an option. As for "self-segregating" and "self-selecting" their news, yes to that too. People aren't relying on newspapers to tell them what's news anymore; they'd rather say "I'm interested in receiving news in my inbox on the following topics" which is the electronic equivalent of having someone cut up the newspaper and only give you the stuff you want to read.

There is an entire generation of "readers" who have no shame in saying they've never picked up a newspaper in their life, yet read several newspapers every day. Everybody wants to blame the editors, blame management, blame whomever they can find but the fact is society and culture more forward, not backward, so if you want to blame someone, blame the general public. They are the ones who are saying, dare I say expecting, media outlets to provide their product free of charge online. They are the ones that see technology being used in ways that improve other areas of their lives so they want to see those tools interspersed into how they take in information too.

It's great that Baby Boomers enjoy reading the paper in the traditional way but the internet is here for good. We are way past looking at ways to harness it. It would have been nice if print came up with and stuck with a subscription model for its produce but that idea is as old as the 8-track now. I read several newspapers each day and I could go along with a sort of cable package style of allowing access to their product, ie, subscribe to several newspapers with one cost. So for $50 a month I get access to one local, one regional and one national newspaper.

But again, more readers or even a better product isn't the problem; it's making money online that's the problem. Trust me, if there were a viable way to transfer print to online and still make money doing it, the print newspapers you all love so much would be gone TOMORROW.

Lastly, I'm not certain using NPR is a good example of how television didn't kill radio as they are listener-supported via PBS. If the BCT or the FJ wants to do pledge drives several times a year to keep its product alive, that would certainly be one option to explore.

Anonymous said...

Watching lots of meetings at one of the booth papers. Just wish they would try all other options before they cut out days. There is no going back once the days are cut out, even if the economy does come back eventually. A comment on one of these entries said that this is just the way of the times, and this is what happens when people stop buying the paper. That is not true in the case of Flint.
Circulation there has had modest declines, people have not "stopped buying the paper." There is still a large loyal subscriber base.

Sure, advertising revenue is down, but the proper attempts have not been made to revitalize sales, which can be done despite economic downturns. I just do not believe the management has the ability to do it and it is a shame the company has not made this a priority, and has put it's faith in management who clearly do not have the skill set to accomplish this goal.

Anonymous said...

They might be using all caps but it appears they are a customer of the paper so I'd give them a break. Thanks for taking the paper 17 March, 2009 00:01

Anonymous said...

Sure, advertising revenue is down, but the proper attempts have not been made to revitalize sales, which can be done despite economic downturns. I just do not believe the management has the ability to do it and it is a shame the company has not made this a priority, and has put it's faith in management who clearly do not have the skill set to accomplish this goal.

AnonymousTG again. How is increasing sales going to help keep the FJ stay afloat? Flint and my beloved Saginaw are teetering toward extinction as communities go. I went home to Saginaw just this Christmas and was saddened to see just how bad it is. Everything is closed, boarded up or torn down. There's no "sales" to get and no population to sell to if you could. Besides, the cost of paper has gone up, the cost of gas has come down from its high last summer but it's still higher than the year before so that affects distribution and then there are the benefits.

If I stayed a Boothie, I'd probably be making $25K more than I make now. Those benefits cost; anyone willing to cut those benefits -- for current as well as retired employees -- so the paper can be a seven-day-a-week daily?

Anonymous said...

MLive needs severe improvements, no question. But see, Advance is Newhouse owned too, so they are the ones holding up progress.

Let me make a few brief points that have been bothering me since I read these comments.

1) In markets where one publication has gone all internet, it's because there's still another print product on the market. Flint is not like this.

2) I'm not even sure the Journal is really losing that much money. This is like market panic. Same with the threat of consolidated artists and copy editing -- they panicked, made the change, and now it seems they may be second guessing. Most decisions being made are based on the ignorant, myopic assumptions of the poorly informed. There is, and always will be, some market for print. Maybe the Journal should try giving it away for free and lowering its ad prices.

3) If the Journal or any of the other papers are to survive, it is necessary that the superfluous and overpaid management make cuts, too! Too many Chiefs, not enough Indians, and the few remaining Indians are being treated like illegal immigrants or slaves. Many on here have complained that management doesn't listen or take suggestions. I'll go one further: they show disrespect and disdain towards those who are working hard and just want to do their jobs. These are people who essentially just want to be left alone to do what they were hired to do: sell or write. I know it's easy to read the news and say this is just a newspaper circulation problem like all over, but I can assure you, it's not.

4) Many people still listen to the radio when they are driving. Many people still enjoy TV programming. There is room for all media here. If the Boothies really wanted to sort this all out, they would invest some energy in understanding changing media consumption habits. They don't get it.

5) What most people are upset about is the lack of vision; that yes, this newspaper is doomed in print, but just as upset that it's also doomed on the internet! They see the same missteps being taken, the same feet-dragging going on when faced with change. THAT is the real complaint you're seeing here -- opportunity being squandered.

Anonymous said...

Mr. College PR Person's notion that people will sign up for his institution's newsfeeds overlooks something crucial. Namely, that that's an active process of searching for news from a particular organziation. Yes, people will do that on a limited basis for their alma mater, their company, their church. But that's about it. If there were no news media, and I wasn't signed up to Grand Valley State University's newsfeed, how would I have known about the recent shooting on campus without the media?

Those who argue the internet will replace print news keep missing the point that the news media -- newspapers and magazines in particular -- do the original reporting.

I live in one of the Booth newspaper cities, and I can vouch for the fact that the local TV station pretty much reads the local paper on the air at 6 and 11 p.m. Same happens on local radio, though it's not as obvious.

If newspapers disappear, and the original, local reporting disappears, too, much more will be lost than most people realize.

The other important element that newspapers provide is a common, daily repository of what's happening in the world. To the extent that we're a representative, participatory democracy -- and intend to remain so -- we need at least one source of news and information that is representative and participatory of the community. Folks on opposite sides of an issue, who have their own "facts" provided by their own, special, customized news organs, won't even be able to begin a discussion of the issues until they come to some consensus on the facts. You think democracy operates slowly now? You ain't seen nothing yet if the MSM (mainstrean media) disappear.

One newspaper per town often is enough, but zero newspapers is not an option. The rest of the internet can continue to do what it does -- segment, divide and otherwise Balkanize us.

Newspapers are cheap. No more than the cost of a day's candy bar. And you can participate personally in the Letters to the Editor for the cost of pen and paper, envelope and stamp.

People may not realize they need newspapers. Typically, they don't think much about the local Fire Departments. But when they need these services, they need them now.

Anonymous said...

I TYPE IN CAPS BECAUSE IT GETS ATTENTION...AND I SEE IT DID.

CAPS OR NO CAPS ...IT STILL SAY'S THE SAME....

Anonymous said...

Hey all caps.. Make sure you call the Journal and complain to them about this rumored change and have your friends do the same thing. Thanks for taking the paper.

Anonymous said...

Mr. College PR Person's notion that people will sign up for his institution's newsfeeds overlooks something crucial. Namely, that that's an active process of searching for news from a particular organziation. Yes, people will do that on a limited basis for their alma mater, their company, their church. But that's about it. If there were no news media, and I wasn't signed up to Grand Valley State University's newsfeed, how would I have known about the recent shooting on campus without the media?

That would be MS. College PR person, thankyouverymuch.

You are forgetting that broadcast is alive and well. If I want to get something out via a traditional media route, I can do that. Or I can create a news section which allows people to receive the news directly via email, Facebook, text messages and in the case of a disaster, automated text messages. No one is waiting until the next day's paper to see what happened in the world or in their community. And if you think there aren't bloggers -- some with questionable credentials, I'll give you that -- that won't pick up the slack for a newspaper that's gone bellyup, I think you're wrong.

I'm far for painting an apocalypse for news as NEWS itself will not go out of style; how people RECEIVE news, ie, a newspaper, most certainly is. What I'm saying and what may be hard for people to swallow is this: people don't need newspapers or newspaper reporters to get their news.

I can't speak for all institutions outside of academia but what I do know about many colleges and institutions is they take crisis communications very seriously. I attend a meeting once a week EVERY week on emergency notification systems, drills and test runs and other crisis communication planning. If a college is a state school they absolutely have to do it and if it's a private institution they'd permanently damage their reputation if they didn't. So if a Virginia Tech were to happen on my campus, no one is going shush it under the rug and hope the local newspaper finds out. More than likely they'll say "We noticed you changed your website to the emergency website; what's going on?"

I recognize this is an uncomfortable thought for a lot of people who have invested their lives and their souls into the print newspaper business. When I left reporting in 2001, I took a lot of heat from my friends. A lot of heat. Now those same friends are asking me how I like PR and how easy it is to transition over. I was talking to a reporter with USA Today who said after he finishes some of his reporting obligations, he's looking to get out of the business too.

Also, I'm not entirely certain where this belief that if management takes a paycut that will save the newspaper. That's a Band-Aid over a bullethole. The same people who want some editor to give up a raise are the same ones to pitch a fit if they didn't get theirs. However I do agree that once a newspaper decides to cut back on days, it'll be hard to go back to that. I'm not in Michigan anymore but I wouldn't be so quick to assume that cutting back on the publishing days is a solution that wasn't properly thought out; for all you know, that was the only solution that prevented the presses from not running for good.

Anonymous said...

now the rumors are running rampant... pay cuts are coming, and they do not sound small, they sound pretty big. Nice, that the company sent so many off with big buy outs and those of us who have not been there long enough to really advantage from taking a buy out now are faced with paycuts. I know I work my butt off and face unbelievable stress and pressure and now to have a pay cut in salary -- and for those in advertising reduced sales and commissions this really sucks! Of course nothing has been confirmed yet, but it does not look promising. I know many are grateful to just have a job and i am, but people do not sell yourselves short! My performance has been very strong, I should not have to settle for a paycut and neither should you! Bracing myself for the upcoming meeting still waiting for when it will be!

Anonymous said...

That would be MS. College PR person, thankyouverymuch.

I apologize for my gender faux pas.

Meanwhile, I have not forgotten about the broadcast media. I am dismissing it. The local TV in my Booth town has a fraction of the staff that the paper does. When TV reports a story hours later with no additional information, it's not difficult to connect the dots. If local newspapers disappear, I'm convinced that local broadcast media will be compromised.

Your argument that people don't need newspapers or newspaper reporters is technically accurate. The sun won't crash into the earth. But you might want to revisit Marshall McLuhan who first observed that "the medium is the message." Newspapers have unique characterisics that cannot and will not be duplicated in any other news format.

-- Newspaper readers can access news anonymously.

-- Newspaper reporters' names, email address, phone numbers and pictures are easily available.

-- Your technical gizmos for distributing news need my consent, or at least my participation, to reach me.

-- Because newspapers are cheap and easily obtained, reporters are aware that they're addressing a large audience. That affects how they write and report. If you doubt that, consider what you might say on a controversial topic -- say, abortion or gay marriage -- if you were addressing a room full of 500 people as opposed to speaking to a handful of people standing next to you.

You're absolutely correct that news won't disappear. But many of the fundamental aspects of how news is gathered and presented -- and how people make important decision in their personal lives, based on available news -- will change considerably.

I'll sum up by saying that cars replaced horses as a primary means of personal transportation. Now consider all of the changes that that has produced in our world.

Anonymous said...

THANKS, MARCH 18 16:26. I WILL CALL AND ALSO ASK MY FRIENDS TO CALL. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT TO ME.
I WORKED AT THE FJ MANY YEARS AGO IN ADVERTISING AND IT WAS A GREAT PLACE TO WORK WITH AD MANAGER CARL KOCK AND FJ MANAGER CARL LUDINGTON, THESE GUY'S WERE VERY SHARP AND FAIR MINDED. IM SURE IF THEY WERE STILL IN CHARGE THINGS WOULD BE A LOT DIFFERENT. THEY WOULD MAKE IT WORK....