Monday, June 2, 2008

Stop the madness

Does the radio guy know anything about newspapers?

While newsroom employees concentrate on doing what they do best — collecting, analyzing and disseminating the news — Tribune innovation chief Lee Abrams continues to fire off memos full of (wildly imaginative? or just wild?) suggestions like repainting LAT's vans and adding sports logos to sports pages. (No one ever thought of that before. Right.)

The memos are full of hard-to-follow and sometimes-funny ramblings of the company's cheerleader, no doubt penned to rally staffers to think outside the box to come up with ideas that will help stop the company's decline of circulation and advertising revenues.

Unfortunately, people aren't going to be thinking about how to better market and sell the LAT with word out that more layoffs are on the horizon. Great talent has left ( “Time to Go”) and more may to be pushed out the door while the Chief Innovation Officer — who is likely earning the equivalent of what a few good reporters would cost — is spewing forth ideas that are not new, not innovative and not likely to improve the financial health of the horrendously debt-laden company.

Speaking of finances: Is the demise of newspapers a corporate-engineered theory? In “Decline of Journalism” former Hartford Courant reporter Thomas Williams wrote:

... some concerned and dedicated journalistic observers both inside and outside the US news business believe the demise or baggage-seat status of newspapers is a farfetched theory. It is promoted, say news insiders, by corporate executives operating large newspaper chains. They are engrossed in making news collection as cheap as possible, while forcing a larger advertising layout in newspapers at the expense of the formerly generous pages of a variety of local, national and international news. And as they do, publishers and editors claim to be inventing a new, easy-to-read, streamlined form of tabloid attractive to all ages, particularly the younger set.
Hosts of editors, reporters and readers are angry just listening to and repeatedly reading what they consider "excuses" to increase profits while eroding probing enterprise journalism. Those committed to public service news and investigative reporting believe grave industry profits to be manipulative, shallow or misleading. In fact, the very rationale for saving newspapers - cost cutting, layoffs and buyouts - is thought to have created circulation and profit drop-offs, and to foster the very predictions of a dark, deadly fiscal whirlpool. The bigger the staff and cost cuts, the more advertisers and readers are scared away, indeed creating loss of disgusted readers and lesser profits.
Re-painting the LAT trucks green won't bring back readers or increase profits.

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