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.