Tuesday, February 24, 2009

San Francisco Chronicle Swirling the Drain

A banner week so far for crumbling newspapers, the San Francisco Chronicle just the latest.

They won't be missed. My only wonder is if there are enough Democrats around to hire all these unemployed water-carriers.
The San Francisco Chronicle joined the lengthening list of imperiled newspapers Tuesday as its owner set out to purge the payroll and slash other expenses in a last-ditch effort to reverse years of heavy losses.

If it can't reduce expenses dramatically within the next few weeks, the Hearst Corp. said it will close or sell the Chronicle, northern California's largest newspaper with a paid weekday circulation of 339,430.

Hearst didn't specify a savings target nor a deadline for wringing out the expenses. A Hearst spokesman didn't immediately respond to messages Tuesday.

But management made it clear that the cost-cutting will require a significant number of layoffs.

"Our current situation dictates that we accomplish these cost savings quickly," Chronicle Publisher Frank Vega wrote in a memo to the staff. "Business as usual is no longer an option."

The Chronicle has given Hearst financial headaches since the New York-based company bought the newspaper in a complex deal valued at $660 million. The late 2000 acquisition proved to be ill-timed. Shortly after Hearst took control, the San Francisco Chronicle was hard hit by a high-tech bust that caused its advertising revenue to shrivel.

Also Tuesday, the chief executive of Philadelphia's largest two daily newspapers pledged Tuesday to roll back a $232,000 raise while his company tries to reorganize in bankruptcy court.

Philadelphia Newspapers LLC, which publishes The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Sunday, 2 1/2 years after a group of local investors bought the company for more than $500 million.

Chief Executive Brian Tierney and other executives have insisted the company, while strangled by debt payments, remains profitable despite falling circulation and revenues. But some lenders balked at that analysis at Tuesday's initial hearing on the bankruptcy petition and questioned decisions being made by Tierney, a former public relations executive.

Meanwhile in New York, Journal Register Co., publisher of the New Haven (Connecticut) Register and other newspapers, won approval to continue paying basic operating costs, including employee salaries and benefits and newspaper delivery contracts. Lawyers representing lenders made no objections.
Well, we already have public funding to teach these media relics the ways of the Internet. Maybe those with a semblance of talent can take up blogging.

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