Saturday, January 31, 2009

Furlough Frustrations

This year has shown no better than last year in regards to finances within the newspaper industry. Our company, MediaNews Group, has been giving us less and less to work with because our budgets have decreased and decreased.

We just got word last week that our own publisher Wolf Rosenberg had been let go. It was a shocking loss and a first related to staffing. We have made cuts but no one has lost their job, which was always something to be thankful of.

At the beginning of the year, we were told that we must take off one unpaid day a month. This seemed to be a nusense, but was negotiated from working a 7 1/2 hour day every day. It's not like any journalist is really going to take that 1/2 hour off seriously. We already work past our hours as it is to finish the story or get the news. Now we are being asked to take an additional 3 work days unpaid off by March 31st to get us through the end of March.

These furlough days are frustrating, but I have to be thankful that I am employed. There are so many more larger newspapers that are being effected by the economy. And because the problems are nationalized, it is not like I can move to a larger newspaper. They are probably hit worse than us.

The newspaper industry was put into this situation with a two-hit punch. The first was the internet that tested the advertising of the newspaper, which was the bread and butter for the company. We were tested not by getting the news online, but by having that new medium be profitable. While locally the web hits have been the best way to reach a huge market, it doesn't carry the same impression as the print medium does. The second blow was while trying to market to advertisers with a new source, the economy hit a slump. This was the KO punch to our failing kidneys. We were working well with creating a marketable online news source to advertise, but no business had any money to advertise. We are now relying on a bounce back to the economy to jump start our own business. We are reliant on the communities we serve.

I imagined this hardship had started for the last 3-5 years, but it has actually had its roots settled before I was even born. I came across the archive footage of a newscast from KRON San Francisco in 1981 about the news and the internet.

The most intriguing parts of the broadcast are:
00:23 - This might date me, but using a home phone to dial the internet
00:30 - The newsroom is still referred to as "less than fashionable"
01:05 - S.F. Examiner David Cole refers to the web as an experiment, "We're not in it to make money. We probably not going to lose a lot, but we aren't gonna to make much either." (Isn't that the biggest understated foresighted statement ever.)
01:34 - The man interviewed, Richard Halloran, is referred as "Owns Home Computer", as if this is a title held by few.
01:38 - What Halloran likes and thinks is the future of online newspapers is that he can print out a copy at home. Isn't that home delivery?
01:54 - After newspapers via computers was thought of, engineers thought a few years after we all would get our news via computers.
02:00 - "So for the moment at least, this fellow isn't worried about being out of a job." I bet he is now.
02:06 - It takes over two hours to get the paper online! And hourly use charge of 5 bucks! Wow, we're at rocket speeds now, and it's free!


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