Wednesday, March 18, 2009

More details about the restructuring of Local news: Back to the future

Editors had a meeting this afternoon. Some details are filtering out. The plans sound more ambitious than scaled back. The idea is to better serve the "core readers" in those communities where we have the most of them. That means other communities will get less attention: NE Tarrant and the southern Dallas suburbs in particular.

What will the identified communities get? Small teams of reporters. A government reporter and a schools reporter, maybe. But there will still be GA reporters. There will also be an emphasis on analysis and context stories. Maybe some cuts in specialties, though there aren't many of those positions left.

One of my readers said the plans made him think of the scene in the movie Apollo 13 where the astronauts need to power up the command module but only have enough battery power for a couple of light bulbs. Getting it to work took very careful planning. How to "power up" local coverage while cutting the editorial staff will take very careful planning.

Questions from a reader

Some questions with what few answers I have:

I understand we should expect salary cuts and furloughs later in the year, on top of the job cuts. (I, for one, prefer furloughs to salary cuts.) What do you know about this?

I've heard that both are "on the table" where they were not a couple of months ago. Isn't a furlough also a salary cut?
I wouldn't be surprised by furloughs/salary cuts because I think our cash position is frightening. A drop in cash flow would presumably trigger a debt covenant, that could boost our interest rate cause big problems on the balance sheet.

I thought our debt position was better than other media companies? Better for sure than the other Belo? Or McClatchy?

Also, what's with the real estate reorg? Are they going to lease space in DMN building? Wouldn't it make sense to lease out space and make a little revenue? Or sell the building and move us to the Belo building?

I heard today that it's more likely we'll be seeing people from the Belo building filling space on the fourth floor that has been and is being vacated by lifestyles.

As always, anybody who knows better, please let me know.