Friday, January 18, 2013

An editor here, a columnist there ...

I see via my Facebook feed (thanks Tim) that The Gazette (formerly the newspaper Cedar Rapids depended upon) laid off nine newsroom types during mid-January --- as reported not in The Gazette but in Jim Romenesko's media blog. A reporter here, a nightside editor or two there, the usual stuff.

And elsewhere that Mary Junck, CEO of my former corporate master Lee Enterprises, has been rewarded with an 82 percent pay hike (up to $2.09 million) for successfully (via debt restructuring) leading that corporation out of the bankruptcy she successfully led it into several years ago. Nice work if you can get it.

The Gazette is interesting because it's the last of Iowa's locally-held major daily newspapers --- unless you count Lee properties because corporate headquarters are in Davenport. Or the almost-in-Iowa Omaha World-Herald, purchased (along with the Council Bluffs Nonpareil) during 2011 by hometown boy Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway. It would be interesting to know if the Gazette's owners are positioning themselves for a brighter future --- or for a buyout.

Lee's successful debt restructureing provided a bonus for stockholders, too --- but not for newsroom types, unless they owned stock.

And some investment advisors now are recommending Lee Stock, as well as that of another major media player, the McClatchy Co. Not so much Gannett, owner of Iowa's flagship Des Moines Register.

One reason for mild optimism about newspapers is the fact that their reporters remain the base source of much of the news we get elsewhere. Most of my information is retrieved online, for example, but a good deal of it is just digested reports from somewhere else, including newspapers.

According to California reports, The Orange County Register --- purchased last July by businessman Aaron Kushner --- has added 75 journalist types to its operation and plans to add more, based on the premise that people are willing to pay for high-quality news. I'm not so sure of that.

I'll become more of a believer when operations like Lee begin investing in their newsrooms again instead of continuing to gut them to add a few pennies to the bonuses of CEOs skilled in financial sleights of hand.

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