Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Thoughts ...

"[It's] essential that we move faster now to realign our workforce and make our operations more efficient. I'm sorry this requires the painful announcement we are making today, but we're taking this action to help ensure a healthy future for our company." - McClatchy CEO Gary Pruitt on his company's decision today to eliminate 1,400 jobs at McClatchy-owned newspapers

"It became necessary to destroy the village in order to save it." - An American major after the destruction of the Vietnamese Village Ben Tre during the Tet offensive in 1968

That quote by the American army major kept creeping into my consciousness today as I read Pruitt's statement and absorbed the news from One Herald Plaza.

The Herald was particularly hard hit by the McClatchy decision to slash jobs compared with other McClatchy papers.

The Herald will lose some 250 employees through buyouts or layoffs. The Herald can ill-afford to lose any more people; they're running on fumes now.

The Herald and other newspapers have been in trouble for a long time. Newspapers continue to suffer circulation losses. That's just the way it is and it's not going to get any better.

The move today might give the McClatchy papers a little more breathing room but it's only postponing the inevitable that's sure to come somewhere down the road.

And at some point it's just going to become too costly to produce a printed product that no one is subscribing to or buying advertising in.

And in this Internet age someone in the executive suite must realize that newspapers are spending a lot of money printing and delivering a product that's virtually obsolete when it hits doorsteps in the morning.

I'm surprised those in charge at McClatchy can't seem to come to grips with this.

They need to move more quickly to provide quality information via the Internet. Like tomorrow.

I have a friend whose daughter graduated a few years ago from FSU with a degree in journalism. She immediately went to work for a Florida newspaper. After less than a year she quit to go back to school. She just received her masters in broadcast journalism from UF.

What happened?

While working at the paper she realized that there wasn't any future in print journalism. "After all," she told her father: "I didn't even read the paper I worked for."

She's in her mid-20's. If she can figure this out why can't the people at McClatchy?

What was missing from all of McClatchy's press releases today was any mention that Gary Pruitt and other McClatchy execs were bearing their share of the "pain" by taking pay cuts. After all, there's plenty of pain go around.

Some of the people who were fired today...yes, 24 people at the Herald were told today that they were being let go effective immediately. Some of those people have decades of their lives invested with the Herald.

I'm told by one person that one of those let go, reporter Phil Long, had almost 40 years with the Herald. I can't confirm this but it sounds about right. I've been reading stories with his byline for years.

I've been reading the Herald for a lot longer than some of the young reporters who work there have been alive. But I realized a few years ago that I was in constant disagreement with the Herald and the thrust of their coverage on many stories.

It's their paper, ink and presses. They can print what they like; it doesn't mean I have to like it.

I have no issues with their basic mission of providing information about the people who run this town. The Herald does a great job uncovering wrongdoing and corruption and they have 19 Pulitzers to show for their work.

Whether or not the Herald will win any more Pulitzers remains to be seen.

I hope they win more. Quite simply, Miami needs the Herald.

But after today's events I'm not optimistic.

I hope McClatchy isn't trying to save the Herald by destroying it.

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