Layoffs at corporately owned daily newspapers nothing but greed

Thoughts from Behind the Pressline

I’ve been accused over time of not liking daily newspapers and being overly bias toward weekly newspapers. I’ve always been quick to point out, however, that it’s not the newspapers I don’t like but rather the corporate culture that is killing the sense of community these organizations once had. When these businesses were cash cows and the money was flowing, it was like a big Monopoly game, with corporate buy-outs of long standing family ownership and then swapping and trading of properties to further enhance the corporate grip on a region.

Last week, while I and many of our editorial staff members were in Saratoga Springs at the New York Press Association’s Spring Conference, the news broke regarding the Lee Enterprise/Post-Star’s move to terminate about 30 percent of its editorial staff, primarily in the Washington and Saratoga County areas. More shocking than the cuts at the Post-Star and the 51 other Lee Enterprise-owned papers who made similar large-scale staff cuts across the country, was the announcement just days before that Lee CEO Mary Junck was awarded a $500,000 bonus and CFO Carl Schmidt was awarded a $250,000 bonus.

Call me a crazy fool or completely out of step with capitalism but I see a community’s newspaper as its biggest cheerleader and one of its primary guiding leaders. When times are tough, you set some of your own priorities aside and lead through example. It should be in times like these that a steady hand on the wheel will set the economic course for a community. A well run, well established company, should be positioned to set aside its appetite for making lots of money and sending it out of the community to its shareholders, while having a long term strategy to recognize there will be time enough for making money when the economy has been corrected.

Dan Alexander is publisher and CEO of Denton Publications. He may be reached at dan@denpubs.com.

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