Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Akron Sinking Journal

The Bloodletting in the Beacon Journal has begun. 40 newsroom employees got their contract-mandated 60-day notice. Accoring to the BJ's story:

    Canadian publisher Black Press Ltd. paid $165 million for the newspaper and its Web site after the breakup of parent Knight Ridder Inc. in June.

    Black told employees days before the transaction closed that jobs would have to be cut because of revenue losses.

    * * *

    ``There could be the need for further reductions'' in the newsroom if revenues do not improve, Moss said.

    Before the cuts, the newsroom had about 160 employees.

    Editor Debra Adams Simmons said the layoffs will affect the newspaper.

    ``We're evaluating everything that we do and everything we need to do to determine the best combination of content possible with the staff that we have,'' she said.

    The restructured newspaper's efforts will focus on Summit County, its core market, managing editor Mizell Stewart said.
The only people who might feel OK about this are my readers who have heard dark rumblings of 50% cuts. In fact my souce was spot-on with the number of people let go, but we had a miscommunication what that meant percentage-wise.

The story is fairly hard-hitting, given that it's essentially a gripe against the new boss. Blog reaction is filling in the gaps.

From Ohio Media Watch:
    WEWS/5 reporter Brad Harvey - who witnessed the story first hand from the station's Akron bureau inside the Beacon Journal building - lists names of some of the paper's staffers now being cut... including names such as Browns beat reporter Patrick McManamon, and writers Lisa Abraham and Julie Wallace.

    OMW has heard other names on the cut list, including movie critic George Thomas, music/entertainment writer Malcolm X. Abram, and sportswriters Stephanie Storm and Tom Reed. (A special note goes out to Mr. Thomas, who dropped us a note a while ago telling us he's a regular OMW reader. Here's hoping some OMW Karma visits you soon, George!)
From BJ Retirees:
    Managers affected by the layoffs were design editor Mike Needs, deputy metro editor David Wilson and David Helmick, computer guy for the newsroom.

    A total of 41 or 42 staffers including 36 in Guild and management positions were given the required 60-day notice. Those whom the layoffs would affect were named with indications by the company it would reduce the number one for one if others resigned. If a photographer resigned, for instance, then a photographer would not be laid off.

    The sports department took a big hit. Artists Steinhauer and Hagedorn, eight copy editors, four photographers, 11 reporters, a librarian, three clerks and seven college student correspondents. Generally those with least seniority by job title lost their jobs.
From PsychoBilly:
    Mike Needs, formerly the Public Editor and leader of the Reader's Panel I've been a part of this year, was let go. He had recently been moved to Design Editor. Needs has a long history at the Beacon, including being on the leading edge of developing the website content. His loss is significant, in my mind, regarding the paper's quality.
A few thoughts.
  • Black's mode is to focus on local news, so shedding people whose work can be replaced by wire pieces (Abrams and Thomas, for example) isn't too surprising.
  • The focus on Summit County is a nightmare. At the risk of sounding all Voices and Choices, Summit is too enmeshed in the region for that to make sense.
  • It's really a shame about Abrams and Thomas. Pop culture criticism in general-interest publications isn't terribly diverse. I felt proud that the local paper employed not one but two African-Americans
  • I'm guessing that part of the plan is to shift more work to freelancers. Inevitably the journalism will suffer as people write one-off pieces as opposed to developing expertise on beats.
There's some more reorganization in the works which, if sources are correct, will make a bad situation worse.

Remind me: Why do we still live here?


redhorse said...

McManamon? Are you ^&*%()*&%^ kidding me?

Thomas, Abram? Yeah, replace those guys with wire from the Boston Globe. Brilliant.

Then again, I suppose I'd be just about pissed off at any of the names.

Anonymous said...

Pho == Anon posted some of this news last night in comments section. Trying to help you out. Anyway, reporters cited in your post were indeed hit -- Abrams, Abraham, Reed, Thomas, Storm, McManamon and Wallace. In addition, Armon, Mackinnon, Massey and Estwick. All very, very sad.

Anonymous said...

Addendum to above -- voluntary resig. being accepted 60 days.... would reduce no. of layoffs, which would be a terrif. thing, but positions still gone forever...

mencken said...

That comment about being proud that the Beacon had two African-American writers reeked of PC.
Crutchfield and Al Fitzpatrick would have choked on that as well along with Mizell Stewart.
Back in the 80's two of the best reporters at the BJ were Rich Henson and Glenn Proctor... both black and covering things a little more meaty than pop culture. Proctor is now the exec. editor of the Richmond Va paper and Henson is an editor of a business magazine now. I think that's more telling than reviews of Talledaga Nights and Def Leppard.

Personally I thought Abrams was the best writer at the paper and at the same time thought George Thomas was not so much so. The fact that his son was allowed to fill space in the paper was inexcusable in my opinion. Sorry kid. Regardless, their race was irrelevant.

matt r. said...

why in the hell did they decide to keep chip bok? that guy's idea of creative satire is drawing donkey heads on bush critics. today's gem was taken directly from rush limbaugh. if you notice the word "hezbo" is scrawled across that arab looking fellow's head (how flattering). that term is straight from the ditto-head vocabulary. last sunday's crap doodle equated concerns with presidential oversteps a la wire tapping, torture, etc to gripes, now that airports are on lockdown status. are howy chizek listeners sending him ideas or does he think of these on his own?

Anonymous said...

I hate to say things are tough all over but: The Toledo Blade (the only paper other than the ABJ to do anything resembling regularly occuring real journalism in Ohio's papers) just locked out two of it's unions and there is likely to be large scale job cuts there as well (partly because Block Communications is sinking like a rock and would be even worse if they didn't own a cable system). So here's to ever more McPapers (like the Columbus Dispatch, why do journalism when you can just copy someone's speech word for word? *ugh*).

NEOBuckeye said...

So it seems that David Black has turned out to be another profiteer, just like virtually any other owner/executive. I guess too much money is never enough, especially when he thinks so little of his employees:

"I don't really believe that quality of a newspaper is a direct function of body count in the newsroom. I walk through way too many newsrooms where I see people just talking or looking on the Internet and having fun."
--Quote of David Black taken by Eric Mansfield from a Reuter's article, posted on Mansfield's blog.

That pretty much says everything we need to know about David Black, and why the future of the Beacon Journal looks dim.

Mansfield himself said it best; our town just got a lot smaller today. These cuts strike at the very heart of the Beacon, which will probably never fully recover. Both the paper and the community that it serves are diminished and weaker for the talent lost.

I guess it's hard to imagine that McClatchy would have done things any differently had they decided to keep the ABJ. I think a lot of people had sort of breathed a sigh of relief when that didn't happen. Like escaping from angry bees only to run into a wasp's nest. It seems, we get stung anyway.

Patrick said...

This is definantly bad news, but I'm not entirely shocked. I live in Hudson and even though I do not get a daily paper, if I did, I would get the Plain Dealer because Cleveland is the larger city and the core city in the area. If I lived further south in Summit County, maybe I'd get the Beacon Journal. It's still a good paper though.