Wednesday, April 09, 2008

The "Turk" pays a visit to the Herald

In pro football the turk is the guy who lets you know that your services are no longer required and now might be a great time to clean out your locker.

The turk surfaced at the Herald yesterday.

Chances are you won't be reading about him in this morning's paper.

In this case the turk is Herald editor Anders Gyllenhaal.

Gyllenhaal sent out this memo informing editorial employees that the Herald plans to offer buyouts to three areas of the newsroom in an effort to cuts costs.

The Herald is not alone here. Newspapers all over the country struggling to cope with decreasing ad revenue and circulation declines.

On Monday the Seatle Times announced that it was eliminating about 200 jobs. Coincidentally the Herald's parent company McClatchy owns a stake in the Seattle Times Co.

Need more proof? Check this site for a week or so to see how bad things are.

The paper now is a shadow of its former self. The Herald used to have the largest circulation of any paper in the state and bureaus that stretched from Key West to Tallahassee. No longer. The Herald's website now lists 10 bureaus although I suspect some of the "bureaus" are staffed with just a single reporter. And the paper with the largest circulation in the state is now the St. Petersburg Times.

What does this mean for Herald readers and subscribers?

Fewer editorial employees means less output and a lower quality editorial product regardless of how Herald executives spin it.

Morale at the paper is already rock bottom.

Read part of an e-mail sent to me recently by a Herald staffer:

"I get as frustrated you. I only have [a few] years here but we run this shop completely different than when I first started.

I'm not sure who my editor is. We care more about web hits than good tales.

To get decent play, a story needs to be pre-planned, pre-packaged with video and audio.

The only urgency is to post something (accuracy sometimes OK) online by 9 a.m. - but by the time, it comes to putting it in the newspaper, don't be surprised if the editors forget to publish your story.

Dude, trust me, I'm always days behind on some stories because I'm juggling an entire county and everyone else is trying to figure out how to use a video camera."

Does that sound like a happy camper? I think not.

So how did the Herald - and other papers - get in this fix?

#1 Circulation declines. Fewer readers means fewer eyeballs and that means that papers get to charge advertisers less. One of the reasons for falling circulation is a direct result of newspapers offering their content for free online. The Herald's circulation continues to to plummet as many readers simply decide they no longer need the print product when they can read the paper online.

#2 Decreased revenue. Fewer advertisers of course means less ad dollars. And traditionally a large part of advertsing dollars for newspapers came from classified ads. Sites like Craigslist that offer free classified ads have cut sharply into newspaper classified ads. Anyone who says differently is lying.

The Herald is a great good newspaper; just not as great good as it once was.

The paper and the people who work for it have done some great work. And along the way they've amassed 19 Pulitzer prizes for that work.

Will the paper still be around five years from now? In 10 years?

You'll have to ask someone who's a lot smarter than I am.

But right now my guess is that you won't find too many people at the Herald this morning who can - or want - to answer that question.


Footnote: While poking around the internet researching this post I found this.

More examples here.

I wonder if ol' Jack would be welcome at the Herald today?


  1. The Miami Herald is my hometown paper even though I live in the northeast. I always check in to see what's happening. This is sad.

    Personally, I've been disappointed ever since the Herald dropped the the Tropic Magazine. . . but that's just me.

  2. Depressing but not unexpected.


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