Wednesday, November 30, 2005

But Neil Diamond would stop the firings

First off, Neil Diamond accepted my Myspace friend request. It was a few days ago, but it's still amusing to me. Myspace is weird, but Neil is cool.

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Happy birthday to Billy Idol. He is 50 today.

Dear Billy,
What are you planning do with on your birthday?

Daniel

Dear Daniel,
"Oh dancing with myself ... Oh dancing with myself ... Well there's nothing to lose ... And there's nothing to prove ... I'll be dancing with myself ... Oh, oh, oh, oh."

Billy

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I seem to be writing about it too often lately, but once again yesterday, the newspaper business decided to eat away some more at its soul. Part of a memo from the Orlando Sentinel...

Here at the Sentinel, we eliminated 33 open positions and separated 21 employees from throughout the company today. Those employees leaving the company will receive separation benefits. As our products continue to evolve to meet our readers' and advertisers' needs, our work and staffing levels have changed. We have identified areas where work could be done differently, consolidated or stopped altogether. We also have some retirements and other voluntary departures. In some of these cases, we will not fill the positions as a means to achieve further cost saving.

"Separated 21 employees." Well that's a nice way to put it. Later on, she refers to the paper as "strong and successful"? Then why are you doing this?

A profitable company and one of the better papers in the country, eating its young in order make more profits. Shameful. As long as newspapers keep cutting staffs, the quality of papers will disintigrate. We complain about circulation numbers dropping, and if people were given a reason to read the paper through good content they can't get elsewhere, maybe those numbers would increase. But as long as staffs are cut and more reporters have to work overtime and are piled with more and more work, the paper is going to look more and more shoddy. At this point, no one who works at a newspaper should feel any loyalty towards the company because at this point, who is to know when your day is going to come. Nobody is safe in this industry.

In the late 1990s, the Tribune Company's stock was priced at more than $60 per share. (The Orlando Sentinel is a Tribune paper.) It is now $32. My contention is that newspaper stock shouldn't have been that high in the first place. Perhaps people thought they were buying into an advertising monopoly, and then came the Internet.

First they lost their monopoly on advertising because they didn't know how to handle it, then they decided (foolishly) to put their daily newspaper content online for free. Too bad we can't fire the idiots who made those decisions. They need to start charging a small, reasonable price for online content. Offering original content online would be a plus, too, but that would require HIRING MORE EMPLOYEES AND NOT FIRING.

Sure, people won't like paying for it at first, but 25 years ago, people probably laughed at the thought of paying for television. Now millions of people buy cable. And it needs to be industry-wide. There can't be the New York Times, Houston Chronicle and Smalltown Weekly charging, but the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and Daily Planet not. Publishers and higher ups who don't understand how to make the Internet work for the paper are the problem. Along with not firing newsroom veterans, they should be hiring more people for their online departments. Spend money to make money.

Something I learned after writing all this was that one of the reasons the Sentinel's circulation numbers have dropped is because they were inflated all along. They distributed free copies of the paper in hotels and counted those in their paid subscription numbers. Apparently, the Tribune Company does this at a lot of its papers. It makes me wonder how many other newspapers do this. Afterall, a particular paper we all know and love distributes for free at a particular college we all know and love.

That's all for now. Time to take my tranquilizer shot.

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