‘The Bad News About the News’

Veteran publisher Tom Engelhardt’s rundown on the decimation of book publishers’ staff (TomDispatch, 12/17/08) compares “collapsing worlds” with newspapers–“a disaster area long before the greatest downturn ‘since the Great Depression’ hit”:

The bad news about the news has been flooding in for years, even if it’s worsened under the weight of more general economic tough times. If, for instance, you were even reading a newspaper in print on Tuesday, December 9 (and, if you’re under 25, odds are you weren’t), then you undoubtedly caught the story about the debt-ridden Tribune Company, a news monster which owns, among other properties, the Los Angeles Times (almost half its staff lost since 2001), the Baltimore Sun, the Chicago Tribune (almost a third of its staff lost since 2005) and even the Chicago Cubs, filing for “bankruptcy.”…

Only the week before the Tribune filed, America’s largest newspaper company Gannett announced a 10 percent cut in its workforce due to “declining revenue,” on top of a 3 percent cut last August (neither evidently being part of the 5 percent “trim” at its flagship paper USA Today in late November). And don’t get me started on the rest of America’s newspapers. At least 30 of them are for sale right now, including the 149-year-old Rocky Mountain News, which lost $11 million in the first nine months of this year, with few buyers in sight.

Writing that the Tribune Co. “even had the nerve to claim that bankruptcy meant it could ‘cease all severance payments and deferred compensation to employees who have been laid off.’ (Pity the poor reporters who took those buyouts),” Engelhardt notes that, ironically, “it also hired the investment bank Lazard and the law firm Sidley Austin as consultants. In case you’re worried, they surely will get paid.”

Listen to FAIR’s recent radio program CounterSpin: “Bob McChesney on Tribune Bankruptcy” (12/12/08)