Inky, DN Sold; What About the Jobs? We Have a Plan

By PW Staff
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 1 | Posted Apr. 29, 2010

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You type “Philadelphia” into JournalismJobs.com and what do you get? One measly position for “copy editor” at the Philadelphia Tribune. No offense to the Tribune; your reporters (and copy editors) do some fine work. But it looks like the supply is about to outpace the demand in the Brotherly-something city where once-poverty-level freelancers, who shall remain nameless, are still upping-and-downing Craigslist with thousands of other would-be editors, proofreaders and “article writers,” whatever that means these days. They’re about to get some fierce competition.

And that’s cause all signs are pointing to cuts – big ones – at the Philadelphia dailies sold yesterday, and Philly.com. The 29-hour bidding process between the local investors, headed by Brian Tierney, and the hedge fund owners, led by Alden Global Capital and Angelo, Gordon & Co. (that makes us feel dirty) ended yesterday afternoon with the hedgers taking home the prize pack worth two newspapers, one website, a bunch of unions and a city who’s relied on these papers’ ink for years and years and years (Inquirer: established 1829, Daily News: established 1925).

Unfortunately for city news, hedge funds exist to invest in stuff and make a ton of money off those investments. So it seems bizarre they’d want anything to do with fish wrappings now that Whole Foods hugs your tilapia with its own in-house ironic-headlined newsprint. Gov. Rendell, who did what he could to keep the papers’ ownership local (we want Burkle back!) has promised to stay involved and actually released a statement saying, “I am going to reach out to the new ownership and tell them they shouldn't be in this business if they are just looking to make the maximum amount of profit.”

Translation: Quit doin’ what you do. Please.

M. Nutt’s in the same boat. He wants the papers to be “based on great journalism and what it takes to run a great news enterprise as opposed to just the financial end and what the bean counters might care about.”

And Pinko Specter himself: "I urge the lenders to maintain the papers' integrity by avoiding deep cuts and layoffs and to honor the papers' strong legacy of commitment to truth and journalism."

The list of intellectual figures goes on, but it’s probably no use. They're hedge funds on the free market!

There’s more sad. The unions had been waiting to negotiate with the owners once the ordeal was over, and negotiate they will. Sure, the provision that said senior lenders couldn’t wait to get out the gate and incinerate every last newsroom and driving job, just to hire back half of those workers willing to do “special” favors was scrapped before bidding began, but here’s a telling pull from Business Week:

“The new owners of Philadelphia Newspapers said they won’t make wholesale job cuts as proposed in their initial bid, said Robert Hall, a consultant to the lenders’ group and a former publisher of the Inquirer. Hall, who will be the new company’s chief operating officer, said the group will retain about 2,500 full- and part-time employees. According to Tierney, the company now employs 4,500 people. Hall said that number is inaccurate.”

And here’s what Newsonomics said regarding that situation: “The winning group had proposed asking employees to reapply, but dropped that demand during the auction. That proposal, though dropped, is a clear sign to Philly’s numerous unions that tough negotiations are ahead, and that more cuts are inevitable.”

Bill Ross, executive director of Local 10 of the Newspaper Guild: "We are excited to start working with the new owners . . . I don't want our members to be afraid. We are optimistic to start rebuilding our great newspapers."

John Laigaie, president of Teamsters Local 628: "Should employees be afraid? They've got to be ready to fight…It puts your back against the wall, and you've got to be ready to fight."

Seems reasonable, but unlike the Temple nurses, there’s going to be little sympathy for those who deliver newspapers barely anyone reads, especially in today’s paper climate. Editor and Publisher (itself having almost gone out of business last winter, IRONY!) just this week published their daily newspaper death list.  The Inquirer made No. 11 in the country, with a circulation of 356,189. No drop was reported as the Daily News and Inquirer are now considered one in the same, though U.S. newspaper circulation on the whole is down 8.7 percent.

We have an idea, in case the new owners decide to read this post:

Innovation is what's sorely needed in most newsrooms, right? Fold the Inky into Philly.com; leave the DN in print. There's nothing wrong with an Internet newspaper, is there? No one's saying the Inquirer will cease to be the "paper" of record.

Why? For starters, the Inky isn't what it used to be. We all know that. The Neighborhoods section is gone. International bureaus are gone.

From a socioeconomic standpoint, people who read the Inky generally have more money and more access to the Internet. The People Paper serves a completely different demographic that, arguably, relies more on the paper than it does Philly.com.

From a logistical standpoint, the DN is more successful in print because it's a tabloid. Frankly, it's easier to hold. If you want more news, whip out your iPad and read the Inky online. This probably won't faze Suburbia.

This is a way to save money (by elimininating printing costs for an entire newspaper) AND restore the Inky's long-lost and sorely missed coverage. We can't keep it local, but we need to keep it alive. It's time to get creative.

The reality is that there will probably be cuts, concessions, furloughs, whatever. Who would you rather keep: Delivery drivers, or journalists?

What are your ideas?

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1. cn2004 said... on Apr 29, 2010 at 01:10PM

“Here's a radical idea. If Rendell, Nutter, Specter and the rest are concerned about saving union jobs, they should put together a group of like-minded individuals and buy the paper. They can keep the current staff level, give pay increases if they so choose. But of course that won't happen. Liberals love to see others lose money, but they don't want to lose any of their own.”

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