The Los Angeles Times on Wednesday announced plans to cut 250 positions across the company, including 150 positions in editorial, in a new effort to bring expenses into line with declining revenue. In a further cost-cutting step, the newspaper will reduce the number of pages it publishes each week by 15%.One reason for these cuts is the housing downturn in California: fewer real estate ads. But there are deeper reasons:
“You all know the paradox we find ourselves in,” Times Editor Russ Stanton said in a memo to the staff. “Thanks to the Internet, we have more readers for our great journalism than at any time in our history. But also thanks to the Internet, our advertisers have more choices, and we have less money.”
— Los Angeles Times to cut 250 jobs, including 150 from news staff, By Michael A. Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer, July 3, 2008
Announcements of hundreds of reductions were issued only last week by dailies in Boston, San Jose, Detroit and elsewhere. Among Tribune newspapers, the Baltimore Sun said it would cut about 100 positions by early August and the Hartford Courant announced plans to cut about 50 newsroom positions. The New York Times and the Washington Post both instituted layoffs or buyouts to reduce their staffs this year.Sure, it’s happening everywhere. But the L.A. Times is one of the best sources of journalism around. Why did somebody find it worthwhile to buy it out just to load it up with debt and force layoffs?
Besides the changes in the newspaper industry, Tribune carries the burden of about $1 billion in annual payments on its debt, much of which it took on to finance the $8.2-billion buyout.
Whether this newspaper was targetted or not, the handwriting is on the wall for fishwraps. They’ll either adapt to the Internet or die. I suspect many of them will die. That means we’ll lose many of our traditional sources of real reporting. Fortunately, some new sources are arising, such as Talking Points Memo, which bit into the Justice Department scandals and hung on like a bulldog. Yet blogs like that thus far have a tiny fraction of the resources of big newspapers like the L.A. Times, the New York Times, and the Washington Post. There’s going to be a time of unsettlement of the fishwrap plains while the new shops in cyberspace put down roots into the old country.
And we won’t have ready access to either the remaining existing newspapers worldwide or to the new online sources of reporting unless we have a free Internet. Yet another reason that net neutrality is important.
Yet another reason not to let the telcos get away with retroactive immunity. Remember, the telcos currently paying off Congress are the same companies that want to squelch net neutrality. If they can get away with handing over every bit to the NSA yesterday, why would they stop at squelching your P2P today?