Newspapers 'Rightsizing'? More Like Frightsizing

Jul. 03, 2008 5:48 AM ETGCI, MNIQQ, NYT, GHC, SSP, BLC, TRBCQ7 Comments
Ken Doctor profile picture
Ken Doctor

The news is out: Newspaper companies can no longer afford reporters and editors. Yesterday's L.A. Times announcement is the latest to catch a news cycle of public attention. As well it should. A 17% cut -- 150 newsroom jobs -- is an unnatural disaster. It's the kind of news that shocks, if briefly. Because it is the L.A. Times, it's more shocking nationally than last week's cut at the Hartford Courant (25% or 58 newsroom jobs) and at the Baltimore Sun (about 20% or 55-60 jobs). All are Tribune-owned papers.

These cuts, and more at other Tribune papers, are a part of strategy, the new Tribune management tells us. It's "rightsizing" its papers to meet the economic realities of the day.

"Rightsizing" is one of those words management slings about when it wants to make it seem like it's making intelligent decisions in tough times. Sounds better than "panicking."

To describe the current round of staff cuts, though, there's a better word: Frightsizing. Munch_the_scream_2

Frightsizing means reckless cutting, hacking into one or both of the key elements of what news publishers will need to make it in the digital age. #1 is the newsroom -- or shall we say, content production -- staff. Content is what will make publishers money online, and as experienced, authoritative staff is lost, so will be lost some of the potential of what the new news company can be. #2 is the local sales staff, people who can grasp the out-sized sales/distribution opportunity of measurable, digital commerce and multiply publisher revenues. Frightsizing not only cuts deeply into near-term potential, it instills in the survivors fear and loathing, hardly qualities that win in hyper-competitive markets.

LAT Publisher David Hiller can talk about getting staff down to a "sustainable" size, but the truth is no one's got any idea what sustainability

This article was written by

Ken Doctor profile picture
Ken Doctor is an analyst with a ringside seat at the greatest story ever told about the global media industry. Fully employing more than 35 years of experience across a wide range of media, he’s become a go-to speaker, press source and consultant for legacy and emerging press around the world, talking about emerging Newsonomics. He writes regularly on the business of media change for Harvard’s Nieman Journalism Lab and for Capital New York. He also contributes to CNN Money and Politico. He is at work on his second book, following “Newsonomics: Twelve New Trends That Will Shape the News You Get,” which has been translated into Mandarin Chinese, Korean, Portuguese and Russian. All of his work can be found at his own website. In the past couple of years, he’s spoken to groups and worked with companies on four continents, from Berlin to Sydney, Moscow to Sao Paulo and Orlando to New York. Ken’s keynotes and engagements level with his audiences – and find the ways forward with company and industry strategy. The audiences – whether conferences, trade groups or staff groups, large or small – say they are both challenged and energized. The Newsonomics “practical forecasting” discipline is about fact and metrics, not journalistic religion nor habit, and derives from a trusted access across the legacy and digital news marketplace. A veteran of the digital media industry, he combines deep experience as an executive in strategy, revenue models and journalism. His experience includes 21 years with Knight Ridder, as well as time spent in the worlds of licensing, corporate development, business development and syndication.

Recommended For You

Comments (7)

To ensure this doesn’t happen in the future, please enable Javascript and cookies in your browser.
Is this happening to you frequently? Please report it on our feedback forum.
If you have an ad-blocker enabled you may be blocked from proceeding. Please disable your ad-blocker and refresh.