Friday, June 6, 2008
Burning the newspaper
Buried on the inside page of the Business Section of the Hartford Courant this morning is a story about upcoming layoffs at OCPNC (the oldest continuing published newpaper in the country). The Courant is obviously not interested in boasting about their plan.
In several conversations with Courant reporters past and present, there is a pessimism about the future of the paper, and their own futures. And reporters continue to flee, pursuing jobs at foundations, universities, and in local PR and media positions.
"The writing's on the wall," one reporter said to me. When of course, it should be on the pages.
If reporters and editors aren't demoralized, this article will surely pull their morale to a new low.
The article, euphemistically talks about "right-sizing" the paper, and chief operating officer Randy Michaels, expressing doubts about the "efficiency" of reporters has this to say:
"You can eliminate a fair number of people while not eliminating a lot of content."
Which is in line with the Courant's plan of increasing the advertising to editorial content ratio from the current 50-50 to 75-25.
So, in order to make the Courant more vibrant, the Courant is cutting news, cutting reporters and increasing advertising. And that will attract readers in what way?
The Courant, and all US newspapers have been getting their asses kicked by TV for decades, and now the internet has increased the encroachment significantly by providing content nearly instantly, with immediate access. So, how in God's name do publishers feel that by weakening the news content of the paper that they'll increase readership. They may as well do away with all editorial, and follow the model of the Penny Saver advertising supplements. Give the ink and paper away for free at rack in the supermarket.
And don't get the mistaken impression that The Courant is not profitable. It is, and hugely so, but after Sam Zell's structured purchase, which includes "employee ownership," millions of dollars are shipped away every year to pay down debt.
Hint to Courant: take a look at the Register chain of papers and see your future if you keep cutting your own throat to donate blood to advertisers.
So get ready for the "new Courant," so easy to use because you won't have to read it.