Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Juggling chainsaws

I can't pull out the iinformation now. But I'll go through all the comments tonight and create an aggregate post of numbers and names. So keep on posting data or parting notes. I will get it together later.


  1. I don't know if anyone has thanked you yet, but I really appreciate you setting up this blog.

  2. Ditto on the appreciation from a reader on the East Coast.

  3. You're right, somebody needs to do it - thanks for being the one who stepped up.

  4. Another East Coast reader thanks you, Spartacus.

  5. How is the paper going to continue putting out a product after losing this many people? please discuss

  6. The majority of the hits were in Metro and Sports, it seems. Sports will be jointly sourced with the S-T, the savings in Metro will allow the purchase of many more community 20-somethings, at 20-something prices and sans benefits, as mentioned previously below. The vast difference in job descriptions will mitigate any attempts at legal redress.

    A community volunteer newspaper, managed by paid editors, becomes extraordinarily more affordable to field.

  7. A well-meaning manager asked me to pass along this thought:

    Several years ago, in advance of the first RIFs, the newsroom collected money and divided it among those who lost their jobs. This manager said he had heard that the money was very helpful. And suggested that if someone not a manager wanted to create such a fund now, that it might be helpful this time.

    I told him that I was distantly linked to that fund back then. That it was a lot of work. That we started collecting well in advance of the RIF. That there had been a lot more of us.

    He was not comfortable making the suggestion publicly and asked a reporter -- me -- if I would try to get it onto this blog. Because he knows I'm the kind of person who posts comments on this blog. Which I am.

    Somebody stepped up to create this blog. Perhaps someone will want to step up to try to administer a rapid collection. If you do so, I expect you'd find *some* financial support among the managers.

  8. I'm an outsider watching this with sorrow. I had heard about the "joint venture" with the S-T on sports, but I think the community will suffer with cutbacks in metro. Do these 20 somethings have the skills to do the research (e.g., city and county records) on local stories? Do they have the chutzpah to ask hard questions of elected officials? Do they have any idea of what questions to ask? Do they have the time to attend council/school board meetings?

    I think we in Dallas are about to enter the Information Vacuum as regards our city at a time when we have a mayor who'd rather put lipstick on the pig than attend to its health, a school district run by incompetents, a sheriff who can't seem to run her jail, etc.

    This is not good news.

  9. I didn't want to post this in the other thread, but we've lost a total of 3 in News Art

  10. The problem is not "20-somethings." Talented journalists come in all ages. The problem is that Belo management no longer values and rewards good journalism.

  11. "The problem is that Belo management no longer values and rewards good journalism."

    No, the market no longer values good journalism. Belo can value it all it wants to but if readers don't buy the journalism the advertisers won't buy ads that allow Belo to afford all this good journalism that isn't free. It isn't just Belo that can't afford good journalism. If that was true then all the reporters and editors that were released today would be dancing to other newspapers where 'good journalism' was valued. See that happen? The list of failed or failing newspapers is much too long to be the product of either bad Management on Belo's part or any management's respective valuation of journalism. If you want to be honest, it was Belo's avesion to unions that made the Morning News as profitable as it was for as long as it was. The News isn't in Chapter 11 like Minneapolis or gone for good like Rockey Mountain and yet I'm pretty sure both of those paper's management valued good journalism.

    So let's be honest and objective (hard I know) and just admit that the era of ink on dead trees is either over or going away fast and the first person to figure out how to get people to pay for information they have become accustomed to getting for free will win the prize.

  12. Anonymous at 6:55. I would be willing (and have commented to that effect on the DMN Ed Board blog every time the subject arises)that I would be willing to subscribe to the DMN online.

    I like the updates throughout the day and the blogging, and there are countless more who do as well. I don't know why the DMN hasn't undertaken a subscription model with national and international stuff that mostly comes over the AP and editorials (but not columns and blogs) being free. Then there could be a subscription product for local, in depth, serial, and investigative pieces.

    But I suspect somebody's run the numbers on this and they don't make sense. This is way too bad.

    I'm an outsider here, and I'm saying that so that other outsiders reading this don't mistake the quality of my writing for that of a professional journalist who's been let go and think "good riddance."

  13. Anon @ 6:55... journalism via electrons, in terms of percentage fall-off, actually had a bigger drop in ad dinero last year than the dead tree version did.

    Subscription models? If the AP tried that with wire news, it would have to get AFP and Reuters on the same page, which the DOJ might not like.

    Local news? As long as radio and TV read the headlines, a lot of ppl wouldn't pay for an online subscription.

    Online ad revenue? Pop-up blocker plus a VERY long hosts file, and I don't see more than 90 percent of online ads.

    It may sound a bit existentialist, but, I don't think there's an "answer" out there right now.

  14. You may be right. In which case all reporters will eventually be working for tv networks, cable tv shows, The Daily Show, or syndicates. People still buy advertising on networks and cable and the syndicates still sell to international clients. Maybe newspapers will return to their roots as small local tabloids published weekly and run by a few dedicated people. Maybe it will go the way of the town crier. Maybe the Kindle will work or you can charge $1.25 for a week of news on iTunes. I don't know. But subscription figures are tracking age demographics so as the country gets older, the readership dies with it.

  15. Here is the economic situation:

    A 52-week subscription to The Dallas Morning News costs $323.96. Why should anyone continue to pay so much when there are so many alternative sources for free? Almost every bit of the state and national news is available elsewhere. There are other free news sources for a lot of local news.

    As the overall news hole shrinks, subscribers end up paying $323.96 a year to get ad inserts delivered to their driveway. By the way, you can read the ad inserts online for free these days, too. And the news is outdated by the time it hits your asphalt.

    Does anyone on this blog think more people in the future will sign up for a subscription at $323.06 year? Would you, if you weren't in journalism and had not grown up with a newspaper? No, it's too hard a sell.

    So Belo, as with other print companies, is not left with much choice. The company is not a charity and can't continue to subsidize news production no matter how much we like it. You can argue about who's still employed after today, but in the end it won't matter.

    This isn't just about cutting costs. You have to look at what's ahead on the revenue side. Imagine if the number of subscribers keeps dropping 10% a year and advertisers keep shifting their spending to other media. How long can the paper stay in business in any form? Does anyone think there is an economic bottom ahead for print newspapers and then families in Dallas will turn off their computers and iPhones to order a printed newspaper? Do you think advertisers will come flocking back to it as the print newspaper reaches fewer eyeballs every day?

    It is sad and painful, but that is the situation. Print newspapers have been surpassed by faster and cheaper distribution methods. Look, we're all writing on a free blog service provided by a worldwide company (Google) right now, not passing written notes. We're reading it online to get up-to-the-minute hyperlocal news unavailable from any printed product and without any local advertiser support.

  16. Anon @ 7:49 p.m. Nope on micropayments. ITunes is not a high-analogy comparison. Best explanation I've seen is that ppl listen over and over to downloaded tunes; ppl don't read downloaded newspaper stories over and over.

  17. Don't forget, though, that the DMN has willingly dumped loyal subscribers (in areas outside the city radius), dropped efforts like college campus outreach, and more ... comics, stocks eliminated -- things that matter to the fairly large audience that still does read. Why should print readers care about the paper when it doesn't care about them? Yes, the Internet hurts. Shooting yourself in the foot hurts, too.

  18. Sorry, anon12:35, but college campus outreach is the least likely way to increase print readership.

    Comics: they're free online, have a wider selection, can't be cut by a local editor due to space or politics, and ate easier to share.

    Stocks: why should anyone pay $323.96 a year to see the close from 15 hours ago? I can see it anytime on the cell phone I pay for anyway without having to go to by driveway in the morning.

    You can complain about management not getting it, but your examples indicate you don't get it yet, either.

  19. 6:52 -- I'm not saying that technology isn't dramatically impacting readership. I'm saying that the DMN has actively sabotaged it even more, without a care for those who willingly pay that $323 a year for the fruits of the journalists' (and others') labor. The DMN has abandoned the people who pay -- and ultimately to the detriment of the people who don't (and who won't have as thorough coverage of their nation and their community because they so relish getting their news for free). Meanwhile, even advertisers know their ads have far more impact with a person browsing a print publication than an online one.

    Believe me, I get it. But why abandon the people who will pay the money when you as yet don't have any model that supports any decent online-only business?

  20. The problem is that the $323 a year doesn't come close to covering the cost of the features people love; it's heavily subsidized by advertising. And as more advertisers move online, where they get a bigger bang for their buck, the print revenue model breaks down.

    That's why papers are shifting to a more subscriber-subsidized model. @6:52 may see that as abandoning readers, but I see it as requiring committed readers to shoulder more of the cost of the product they love.

  21. Specialty-focused media (WSJ amongst newspapers) has a better ability to charge for online reading because they know they have a specialized target audience. At the same time, theoretically, that helps the online ad revenue issue as well.

    BUT, if DMN is committing to keeping more in the way of state/national and cutting Metro (not holding my breath on editors-cum-reporters) then, it still has the same "generic audience" issue.

    And, speaking of Metro, I'd expect the WFAA/DMN cross-pollination to get ramped up.