Thursday, August 31, 2006

Cleveland Scene catching up

The Cleveland Scene on August 30 caught up with the news about the Beacon Journal layoffs.

The Scene loves to pretend it gives us the down and dirty news we cannot find anywhere else, so Denise whatshername called a couple of Beacon Journal reporters for some quotes to trash the Beacon Journal in an article headlined “Beacon Massacre.”

Best guy to call, of course, was Dave Wilson, who got the axe after 18 years with the "damn company." Wilson, she said, took his stupid little Beacon Journal mug that had once meant something special and shattered it with a golf club.

Was it the mug he got recently at the end of Knight-Ridder program?

We all feel the pain in the BJ layoffs. We just don’t need somebody from Cleveland twisting the knife.

Of course, you must read it–so click on the headline as usual.

But watch out for false information like the assertion that Black said he wasn't going to lay anyone off. He made no such statement.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Newspaper Guild at BJ remains strong

The Newspaper Guild at the Beacon Journal took a big hit August 22 when the layoff of one-fourth of the staff was announced. However, if the vociferous meeting of the Guild on Wednesday is any indication, the bargaining unit is far from giving up.

Guild officers were taken to task for not getting information to members quickly enough and were questioned for not doing something more. Officers were reminded that in the end it is the membership which has the final say. There was a boisterous debate about one grievance the Guild has filed on what seniority means. The company maintains that seniority means all the time a person has been employed by the Beacon Journal. The Guild, which is the bargaining unit that guarantees seniority rights, contends it is how long the employee has been a Guild member. The rub has been that some people in the Guild became “company” members when they resigned from the Guild and, therefore, the seniority should commence only when they rejoined the Guild. It is divisive issue in which some members thought seniority should include all the time they were in the Guild both before and after they became “company” employees. The layoff of some employees hinges on the definition.

Guild members are discussing ways they can keep the community informed to retain support shown by the community at a Save the Beacon Rally on March 28.

Resignations by some veteran staffers has been a concern and reporters are being asked to list their first and second choices on jobs they would like.

Nobody knows how it will all shake out until the notice period ends about Oct 21, but the Guild remains strong.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Passing the 20,000 mark

We passed the 20,000 mark this week on the number of visitors to this blog since it was started in July 2004. That averages to more than 800 a month and growing.

Ed Sullivan Jr. dies

Edmund R. ``Ed" Sullivan, Jr., 77, of 687 South Lincoln Ave., artist, cartoonist, author and former Associate Editor of the Catholic Exponent in Youngstown, died of cancer at his home in Salem on Saturday evening, August 26, 2006.

Sullivan, a free-lance cartoonist and fine artist whose cartoons appeared in Saturday Evening Post, Colliers, Ladies' Home Journal and other periodicals and books, was well known to local fans of the former comic strips, ``Pricilla's Pop" and ``Out Our Way--the Willets," as well as for his popular set of limited edition prints of historic Salem which hang in many Salem businesses and homes.

A largely self-taught creative talent spun his career, from popular cartooning to writing, illustrating, fine-line pencil drawing, watercolor painting, greeting card design and his unique ``inkstoppers." Cartooning, however, was `in his blood" and accounted for the major portion of his successful career.

Sullivan was born in Gardner, Mass. His family relocated to Akron, Ohio when he was 15, where his cartoon career took off at Garfield High with humor columns and cartoons drawn for the school paper.

In 1967, he established his own syndicate, ``Avant Features," to further promote his cartoon, now called ``Beyond the Stained Glass" and more secular in its content.

Also in 1967, Sullivan joined the staff of the Youngstown diocesan paper ``The Catholic Exponent," as a reporter. While on an assignment he met his future wife, Gerry Van Hovel, a kindergarten teacher living in Canfield, Ohio. They were married June 21, 1969.

He is survived by his wife, Gerry (Van Hovel) Sullivan and a brother, Geoffrey Sullivan of Washington State.

A funeral mass will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 2, 2006 at. St. Paul's Church in Salem. Burial will be at Grandview Cemetery. Friends may call on Friday, Sept. 1, 2006, at Stark Memorial from 2 to 4 or 6 to 8 p.m. Sullivan's favorite charities were: Our Lady's Purse of St. Paul's; Food for the Poor, Inc. at 550 SW 12th Avenue, Deerfield Beach, Fla.; Disabled American Veterans; and Catholic Charities of Youngstown.

[The Beacon Journal,, Akron, OH, Tuesday, August 29, 2006, page B7. Col. 4 ]

Sunday, August 27, 2006

What-Ifs of a Media Eclipse

This New York Times article is the largest article ever posted to this blog

WHEN P. Anthony Ridder met with Wall Street analysts in June last year for a routine financial review, he was the chief executive of the nation’s second-largest newspaper company. And he could not have sounded more upbeat about the prospects for his corporate namesake, Knight Ridder

“The newspaper industry generally, and Knight Ridder specifically, are strong, healthy businesses with a bright future,” he told the analysts. What Mr. Ridder did not say was that during the previous three months, an aggressive group of shareholders, headed by Bruce S. Sherman of Private Capital Management, had been urging him behind the scenes to sell the company.

Among other things, Mr. Sherman and his fellow investors were disappointed with Knight Ridder’s faltering stock price. In the months after the analysts’ meeting, Mr. Ridder maneuvered to cut costs and to satisfy Mr. Sherman. He bought back shares, dumped the troubled Detroit Free Press and cut jobs at Knight Ridder papers in Philadelphia and San Jose, Calif. But Mr. Sherman, joined by two other major institutional investors, continued to press for a sale.

Last spring, Mr. Sherman’s wish was granted. Knight Ridder — with 18,000 employees and 32 daily newspapers with a combined circulation of 3.7 million — sold itself to McClatchy Company">the McClatchy Company for $4.5 billion and the assumption of $2 billion in debt. In June, just one year after Mr. Ridder confidently reassured analysts about his company’s future, the deal closed and Knight Ridder ceased to exist.

Today, many people in the newspaper industry are still scratching their heads over how and why a company with relatively high profit margins and a trophy case of 85 Pulitzer Prizes allowed itself to be wiped off the media landscape.

“Could anyone imagine 10 years ago saying that in 10 years, Knight Ridder would not exist?” asked Jay T. Harris, a former publisher for Knight Ridder at The San Jose Mercury News who quit in 2001 rather than make cuts that the company sought. “It was one of the strongest newspaper companies in America. How could you have a hand like that and play it in such a way that you would end up losing everything?”

The dismantling of Knight Ridder is a study of the hurdles facing publicly traded newspaper companies in a time of seismic change in the industry. The migration of readers and advertisers to the Internet, as well as rising costs and falling revenue, are threatening the financial well-being — even the very existence — of some of the industry’s most storied brand names.

A review of the dynamics behind the Knight Ridder sale and the aftermath of its breakup also offers a cautionary tale: that deep cuts in expenses to satisfy Wall Street will not necessarily save a newspaper company, and may not even bring financial gains to shareholders or buyers.

“Financial restructuring is not the answer to what ails the newspaper industry,” said Peter P. Appert, a newspaper industry analyst at Goldman Sachs, which advised Knight Ridder during the sale. “It’s not a panacea that’s going to create value from a shareholder point of view.”

LAST Thursday night, at a dinner in San Francisco, McClatchy celebrated its takeover of Knight Ridder with the bankers and lawyers who had advised the company on the transaction. But from the stock market’s perspective, McClatchy has very little to celebrate so far.

Once a Wall Street darling, McClatchy — like most other newspaper companies, including The New York Times Company — has seen its stock price plunge. McClatchy’s stock closed at $39.03 on June 27, the day it acquired Knight Ridder, well below its 52-week high of $67.23 . The stock has yet to recover; it now trades at $40.19. (Gary Pruitt, the chief executive of McClatchy, said the company’s weak stock performance was “more a reflection of industry trends than a verdict on the deal,” although Wall Street is concerned about the debt McClatchy incurred in the transaction.)

McClatchy quickly sold 12 of the 32 papers picked up in the Knight Ridder acquisition. All 12 ended up in private hands, and at least one has been subject to further cutbacks. Last Tuesday, Black Press Ltd., which bought the ailing Akron Beacon Journal from McClatchy, announced that it was laying off a quarter of the 161 employees in The Beacon Journal’s newsroom.

Mr. Sherman’s own portfolio of newspaper holdings is now worth about 16 percent less than it was just before he forced the Knight Ridder sale. He had a modest gain on his Knight Ridder shares, but that was offset by the downturn in his holdings of McClatchy.

“Our investment in newspaper stocks continues to cause concern for some clients,” Mr. Sherman wrote in a letter to clients earlier this summer. “Given the disappointing returns thus far, we understand their consternation. In some regards, it would be easier for us to abandon the investment theme than to continue to argue the point.”

While Mr. Sherman’s firm has been shedding some of its newspaper stocks, largely at the direction of dissatisfied clients, about 10 percent of his portfolio remains invested in newspapers. (As of June 30 his firm owned 13 percent of the common stock of The New York Times Company.)

Despite the industry’s woes, some in the newspaper industry have sharply criticized Mr. Ridder for not fighting harder to save his company. He had been acquiescing to Wall Street for years, they say, and his sale of the company was only the final, most striking, example.

“The real story of the fall and decline of Knight Ridder is not Bruce Sherman,” said James M. Naughton, once executive editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer, formerly a Knight Ridder paper, and a retired president of the Poynter Institute for Media Studies. “It’s the notion that you can continue whittling and paring and reducing and degrading the quality of your product and not pay any price. Tony’s legacy is that he destroyed a great company.”

Mr. Ridder, whose great-grandfather founded one of Knight Ridder’s predecessor companies in 1892, dismisses such criticism. “I’m very proud of the journalism of Knight Ridder, and I think Jim Naughton is a bitter guy who was passed over for the top editor’s job,” he said in an interview on Friday. “The issue was what’s happened to the newspaper industry over the last couple of years and the growth of revenue. To say that if we had more people in our newsrooms this could have been avoided is incredibly naïve.”

The paradox for Knight Ridder is that it was making good money when it put itself on the auction block. Its profit margin when it was sold was higher than that of many Fortune 500 companies, including ExxonMobil. But Wall Street’s pessimism about the industry’s ability to overcome its problems kept driving down newspaper shares, including Knight Ridder’s. Mr. Ridder’s decision to sell helped persuade Wall Street that the company’s management lacked confidence in the industry’s future. The sale was a sign of defeat.

When the sale was announced in March, Mr. Ridder said that Mr. Sherman had backed him into a corner. He said he was “upset” and “depressed,” and when the sale became final in June, he pronounced the day a sad one.

Nearly three dozen potential buyers were contacted when Knight Ridder went on the block, and 21 responded. All but two took a pass. (In addition to McClatchy, a consortium of private-equity firms stepped forward but never made a final offer.)

Analysts concluded that the paucity of bidders suggested there was no longer a market for big newspaper groups as a whole. But McClatchy’s ability to sell a dozen of the Knight Ridder papers after the sale indicated that individual newspapers had value. “No one would have anticipated that a year ago,” said Lauren Rich Fine, an analyst at Merrill Lynch. “A year ago there was a presumption that Gannett and Tribune were still buyers of groups of newspapers and that private equity would be very interested, too.”

But in the interim, powerful changes in the industry — particularly the accelerating shift of advertisers from print to online and the effect on big-city dailies — changed the equation.

“The business is not as sickly as all the rhetoric would suggest, but a year later the industry is in declining health, with cost pressures galore,” Ms. Fine added.

That leaves bleak options for newspaper companies that lack the financial resources to ride out the current upheaval or do not have the ingenuity to reinvent themselves to remain profitable purveyors of information, analysis and entertainment in the digital age.

Knight Ridder, formed in 1974 by the merger of Knight Newspapers and Ridder Publications, initially defied conventional wisdom that newspaper chains could not produce excellent newspapers; it racked up a large slate of journalism awards. But by the early to mid-1990’s, newsprint costs were spiraling out of control, and revenue at many papers was sagging.

Knight Ridder responded by making deep reductions in its staff and scaling back its offerings. This was years before Mr. Sherman came calling, and it left Knight Ridder walking a narrow line.

“It was trying to promise shareholders improving margins at the same time it was trying to preserve the culture of quality, and in that sense it couldn’t be true to anyone,” Ms. Fine said. “But you can’t cut the journalism and still put out a good paper.”

Still, Knight Ridder’s profit margin hovered at 20 percent until this year, when it slipped to about 16.4 percent largely because of severance packages in Philadelphia and San Jose. That was almost three points below the industry average of 19.2. Historically, the newspaper industry has produced even higher margins, which helped to raise expectations of investors looking for value investments in traditional media stocks despite the industry’s problems.

Mr. Sherman’s Private Capital Management began investing in Knight Ridder in April 2000, and by 2004 it had become the company’s largest shareholder, with a 19 percent stake. Mr. Ridder said Mr. Sherman was optimistically buying newspaper stocks after the Internet bubble burst because he was driven by the belief that “the Internet is not going to be as big a factor for the industry, so we’ll go with newspapers.”

But by mid-2004, newspaper ad revenues had taken a turn for the worse and stocks across the industry started to slide. By the spring of 2005, Mr. Sherman, who, by some accounts, was overextended in newspapers, had fully 14 percent of his portfolio invested in the sector.

Mr. Sherman first approached Mr. Ridder in April 2005 about selling the company, according to proxy statements. Because of their stock structure, Knight Ridder and Gannett, in which Mr. Sherman also held a stake, were vulnerable to unhappy shareholders. According to people who have spoken with Mr. Sherman, he thought that Gannett was probably too big for any other newspaper company to buy, but he was also frustrated with Knight Ridder.

Last November, Mr. Sherman delivered a letter to the Knight Ridder board, saying that the company’s shares were undervalued; he pressed for an “aggressive” effort to sell it. He said Knight Ridder had failed to address four major issues: the consolidation of print advertising; media fragmentation that was diverting newspaper ad dollars to other media; margins that fell below the industry standard, and the lack of a strategy to leverage its content online.

MR. SHERMAN was intent on a sale and planned to carry it out by having his own slate of directors elected to Knight Ridder’s 10-member board, according to proxy statements. Mr. Ridder said the board believed him. “We were convinced that they would get three directors elected in April so they would have three of 10, then seven of 10 in April ’07 and then the game was over,” he said.

Had Mr. Ridder tried to resist, the agitators might have taken over the board and simply thrown Mr. Ridder out. “Wall Street would have sold him down the river in a heartbeat,” said Edward Atorino, a media analyst at the Benchmark Company, a financial research firm.

Once Mr. Ridder decided to sell, he did not discuss his company’s prospects publicly. But behind the scenes, according to several people involved in the talks with prospective buyers, Knight Ridder tried to elevate potential buyers’ interest by saying that there was still room to cut costs and that the company could become more profitable.

That pitch was based in part on a report by Morgan Stanley, which had said that a new owner could save $150 million a year by reducing Knight Ridder’s work force by 5 percent, trimming benefits and streamlining corporate expenses. Knight Ridder also suggested that copy-editing functions could be consolidated, even among far-flung papers. And it said that the physical size of the newspapers could be reduced, something that many papers, including The New York Times, are doing or are planning to do in order to save on newsprint costs.

Mr. Ridder’s public silence fostered a perception that he had no heart for a fight.

“He gave up,” said Brian P. Tierney, the adman who led the group of investors that bought the Philadelphia newspapers, The Inquirer and The Daily News. “I’m sure he could have found investor bankers who, if they saw the fight in your eye, they would have said, ‘You have a chance.’ But it’s like someone getting a bad report from the doctor and not trying to beat the disease.”

At the time of the sale, Ms. Fine recommended to Knight Ridder that it consider other options. “I said, if you have the conviction that the news business and the online are a win, put up a ‘work in progress’ sign and say that margins are going to go down” while the company retrenches, she said.

She said she still thought that Knight Ridder, as well as other newspaper companies, could benefit from fresh management at the top, “an outsider with a healthy respect for journalism but who has no ties to the way business has been done.”

Some thought that Mr. Ridder could have sold off pieces of the company in order to keep it afloat. William Dean Singleton, the chief executive of the MediaNews Group, which eventually bought four of the Knight Ridder papers from McClatchy, was one.

“In retrospect, if Tony had it in him to sell Philadelphia and Akron, as Gary has done, the company he had left would have looked good,” he said, referring to Mr. Pruitt’s sale of the Knight Ridder papers in those markets. Without those papers, Mr. Singleton said, “his financial performance would have been among the best in the industry.”

MR. RIDDER said that none of these options would have worked. Selling off underperforming papers would have produced hefty capital gains taxes. And even as those papers were lagging, they were still generating enormous cash flow, which he said he did not want to give up. Selling the papers, he said, would be a “liquidation” strategy, not a strategy for growth.

But to McClatchy, absorbing such taxes on the 12 papers it sold was worth the short-term hit. “We’ll pay $585 million in taxes as a result of selling those papers,” Mr. Pruitt said. “But long term, it put us in a stronger position. We wouldn’t have done the deal if we hadn’t been able to sell those papers.”

In any case, Mr. Ridder, who said Mr. Sherman had never complained to him about how he ran the company, said he felt he had two choices: “We could have this public battle and eventually lose, or we could have some control over the process.” If the company did not like the bids it received, he said, it could have refused them, although financial analysts said that would have created an uproar on Wall Street.

“Part of me would have loved to have had this fight,” Mr. Ridder said. “But what was the point? To look macho? I would have felt better, but there would be all this turmoil.” He said the chief lesson he had learned was this: “For those who have two classes of stock, don’t ever give them up.”

Knight Ridder had a single-class stock structure that made it vulnerable to restive shareholders in a way that companies with a regular class of common stock paired with a special class of voting stock — The New York Times and The Washington Post, for example — are not. But the lack of interested buyers in Knight Ridder, and broader changes undermining the industry’s financial health, mean that even companies with two-tiered stock structures may not remain insulated from pressures that continue to rock the industry.

Very few in the industry, either on the news side or the business side, seem to believe that public ownership is worth the grief, at least in the current climate.

“There’s a big lesson in terms of the pressures of public stock ownership,” said Larry Jinks, who had been a Knight Ridder senior vice president for news and was a top executive at two of its papers. “Particularly with mature businesses, those pressures can be destructive, and I think they were in the case of Knight Ridder. There’s a tendency over time with public ownership for the editorial presence in the corridors of power to decline.”

Mr. Appert of Goldman Sachs said he expected that the Knight Ridder experience might persuade public newspaper companies to take themselves private.

“You’ll have these financial pressures forever,” he said. “To the extent you want to maintain the same level of quality, maybe you are better off not being subject to the public financial market.”

Mr. Pruitt said McClatchy’s public ownership offered him a leg up: if it were private, he would not have been able to use stock as part of his currency when buying Knight Ridder. He said that going private is not a near-term option for him because his company has too much debt it needs to repay.

For the time being, he said, the lessons from the Knight Ridder sale are these: “The media business is tougher today than it was a generation ago, with a smaller margin for error. And in the age of shareholder activism, the consequences of market underperformance are great.”

Mr. Ridder, despite his sorrow at losing the company, said earlier this year that there was nothing he would have done differently. He said he had not reduced his expenses nearly as deeply as Wall Street sometimes wanted. “I guarantee you we could have had a higher margin if we had been tighter on costs,” he said.

Mr. Ridder said that there was a link between staff size and the quality of newspapers, but that staff reductions had not been a problem at Knight Ridder. “I wouldn’t say you could reduce the staff and it has no impact on the quality,” he said. “But I feel that over all, I don’t feel that any of our newspapers are inadequately staffed.” On Friday, he said, “I’ve not heard of anybody who has bought any of those papers say, ‘We think we need to add more resources.’ ”

Whether the former Knight Ridder papers will be better off, financially and journalistically, under new management remains to be seen. Some may get infusions of energy that had dissipated under Knight Ridder. But they will also continue to grapple with the Internet as they reorient themselves to a media world in which pressmen, truck drivers, reporters and editors are all rethinking how they do their jobs.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Pluto on Pluto

You won't want to miss BJ sport columnist Terry Pluto's column on the eviction of Pluto from the solar system.

Pluto writes:
I speak for all the Plutos in the solar system, or at least for those in my immediate family -- we don't plan to take this eviction notice like some poor puppy cowering in the corner of the basement.

Click on the headline to read it all.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Sports department hit hard

Here are layoffs in the Beacon Journal sports department:

+ Jamie Hogan, copy editor

+ Pat McManamon, Browns beat writer

+ Stephanie Storm, Aeros/High Schools writer

+ Gary Estwick, Kent State/High Schools writer

Also, Tom Reed, sports columnist, might be let go but might be spared if others volunteer to be laid off.

Service to BJ has been top shelf

Linda Golz, librarian for almost 14 years, was among those who got layoff notices on Tuesday at the Beacon Journal. Linda began working at the Beacon on January 1, 1993 and became full time in 2001. She was a correspondent for the newspaper for almost 21 years.

Except for clerk Dan Roese she probably has the most service of any of those laid ott.

Among her current duties is compiling the religion notes listings for Saturday's paper.

Her husband, Michael, works in customer service at Summit Racing in Tallmadge and they gave three grown da
ughters. They have been trying to help them finish college, but do not know if they will be able to continue that support.

Linda is ho
peful she will be able to find another job.

“She is loved by all who meet her and will be missed terribly,” said Norma Hill, a survivor in the library along wit
h Diane (Leeders) Wright..

The photo of Linda was taken by the late Fran Murphey in better times at a correspondents’ Christmas party in 1988. It shows Linda performing with her dummy Wendy Day She was lampooning her boss, the late Pat Englehart.

Annabeth Black dies

Beacon owner's wife partner in life, business
Master gardener, 60, made many decisions with mate of 36 years

By Marilyn Miller
Beacon Journal staff writer
Ann Elizabeth Black, nicknamed Annabeth, wife of the new owner of the Akron Beacon Journal, David Black, died early Wednesday following a battle with pancreatic cancer. She was 60.

She died at home in Oak Bay, British Columbia, a suburb of Victoria.

Mrs. Black was diagnosed in 2005.

She was said to be a confidante and partner with her husband, both in life and in business. Company officials said she sat on the board of directors at Black Press, which owns more than 100 newspapers in Alberta, Canada, as well as Washington and Hawaii.

Mrs. Black was noted for spending much of her time reviewing their newspapers, concerned most about the journalistic quality and community involvement.

``There was hardly a decision that got made without her input,'' computer systems manager Al McGee told a reporter at the Oak Bay News, who has worked closely with David Black since 1979. The Oak Bay News is also owned by the Blacks.

Mrs. Black was born in Vancouver, the oldest of eight children.

She met David Black while attending the University of British Columbia, where she earned a bachelor's degree in music education.

The couple, married 36 years, had four children -- twin sons, Fraser and Alan, 34, and daughters, Morgan, 32, and Catherine, 30.

A neighbor for more than 20 years, Karin O'Connor, described Mrs. Black as first and foremost an awesome mother.

``She was the type of person who was always available if anybody in the neighborhood needed her. She was a stay-at-home mother who always kept herself busy in the community and in the home,'' she said. ``She had a wonderful approach to life. She was a fun, loving person, enjoyed life and was very down to earth.''

According to newspaper articles, Mrs. Black sat on various boards of charitable organizations, including Children's Hospital. She also was hostess to many lunches and receptions when her husband was chairman of the board of directors of the Commonwealth Games in 1994.

Her son Fraser told the Victoria newspaper, Times Colonist, that his mother sat side by side with many important people on various boards, but she really enjoyed putting her hands into the soil of her own garden.

``She was a master gardener,'' O'Connor said. ``She had a great flower garden and an extraordinary vegetable garden. She was also involved in the revival of oak trees.''

Fraser Black told the Victoria newspaper that his mother was very proud of her family and ``very proud of my father, and the things that they accomplished together.''

David Black told a reporter in a Nov. 9, 2000, article published in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin -- which he bought in 2000 -- that his wife was his best friend.

``I've been very fortunate in my life. I haven't had the challenges that some people have had to face,'' he said. ``I got very, very lucky, finding my wife.... She brings quiet to my life, focuses me less on business and more on my family.''
[Akron Beacon Journal, Akron, OH, Friday, August 25, 2006]

Thursday, August 24, 2006

More E&P coverage on layoffs

Beacon Journal' Guild Hits 'Deep Cuts' at Akron Paper

By Joe Strupp
NEW YORK The Akron (Ohio) Beacon Journal's plan to cut 25% of its newsroom staff has local guild leaders worried about the impact on the union's future strength, and the paper's ability to continue covering a five-county area.

"How do we continue to be an effective group?" said Andale Gross, a nine-year reporter at the paper and unit chair for the Northeast Ohio Newspaper Guild, which has 140 members there. "It is a significant loss. How do we ensure that the people who remain can stand strong?"

Of the 40 newsroom staffers destined for layoffs in the cuts that were first announced Tuesday, 36 are members of the guild unit, Gross said. That means slightly more than 25% of the union's power will be lost.

"A number of people who are cut are members of our executive board, potential future leaders," Gross said. "It makes us a smaller group and it puts us in a position where we take a hit."

The cutbacks were the first major move by new owner David Black, president of Black Press, which bought the former Knight Ridder paper from The McClatchy Company earlier this month.

"We are extremely disappointed the employer has decided
to make such deep cuts in the Beacon Journal newsroom," Executive Secretary Mark Davis of the guild local said in a statement Thursday. "Layoffs and buyouts in 2001 had already reduced the newsroom by 20 percent, and now they are chopping another third."

He also noted that "this is a newspaper that has won four Pulitzer Prizes. With such deep cuts, there is no way to maintain the quality journalism to which the Akron area community - readers and advertisers alike - has long been accustomed."

Although the guild is currently in a four-year contract that does not end until 2008, Gross admitted that the layoffs by a new owner raise concerns about how management might engage in future contract negotiations.

"We expect there to be some challenges," Gross said about the future talks. "Negotiations with a new owner: We don't know what that will bring forward. I don't think it is going to be easy."

As for coverage, Gross also indicated concern that the paper may not be able to continue covering the five-county area it has blanketed since he joined up in 1997. He suggested that emphasizing Akron and surrounding Summit County would be the best approach and believed editors were looking at that reassessment.

"We have taken a lot of [staff] hits through the years and we have still acted as a five-county paper," he said. "I don't think we should. We should pull back to take care of Akron and Summit County and go back to the other counties when stories break."

Editor Debra Adams Simmons and Managing Editor Mizell Stewart could not be reached for comment on that issue. Rita Kelly Madick, a spokeswoman for the paper, agreed that a coverage pullback was likely in the offing. "We are used to being a great paper," she said. "And if that means looking at covering a smaller area, it is an obvious one to look at."

But even with a realignment of beats and coverage areas, Gross contends that the layoffs will hurt because they are removing several key writers. "We are losing several sports writers, one columnist who is well-known, the pop music critic, and the movie critic," he said. "It goes by seniority, so essentially beats are being cut."

The seniority approach is a mandate of the guild contract, Gross said. He also said the paper appeared to be implementing the layoffs in the proper way, as the contract dictates. But he said there may be some grievances filed if the guild finds specific people were not treated correctly.

"We want to make sure everyone is following the proper job titles," he said. "The company put together the seniority list so we want to make sure it was done in a way we agree with."

Madick added that further layoffs outside the newsroom are expected in the coming weeks, but offered no more details. "I expect the same level of signifigance throughout the building," she said.

[Source: Editor & Publisher Published: August 24, 2006 2:15 PMET]

A blog Commentary: Missing Kathy

I keep wanting to compare the layoffs at the Beacon Journal to the recent hard drive crash on my computer–a horrible experience. My computer, like Knight-Ridder, is no more. I was happy to get a new computer, but I miss the old one in strange ways. I did not lose any data, but I had to reinstall some programs and decided not to reinstall some of the lost programs that I did not use often. If I really need them later, I will reinstall them. The new HP computer would not accommodate my old HP scanner so I bought a slimmer new one that is better–but I miss some features of the old one.

I already miss some of the features of the Beacon Journal from years past–Beacon magazine, News & Views, cartoons of Walt Neal and other artists and on and on. I will miss one-fourth of the staff at the BJ including some with years of experience. . Let me name just one staffer–artist Kathy Hagedorn–because we share the same birthdates a generation apart.

I really will
miss Kathy’s illustrations. When my granddaughter started showing some interest in art, I took her to the Beacon Journal to visit Kathy who showed her how she does her job. She does it well.

Kathy started 12 plus years ago as a part-time artist at the Beacon Journal in January, 1994. Her photo shown here is from the June/July, 1994 issue of Sidebar which announced her promotion to full-time. Kathy is looking for a graphic design job. She says she and her husband, Derek Kortvejesi who works at Century Cycles in Peninsula, will survive better than others who have children like Chiffon Staebler on the copy desk who has three chldren to support and whose husband died a few years ago. Staebler has been at the Beacon since 2000. There is still a possibility they will get their jobs back if others in their departments volunteer to leave.

One lucky metro editor will stay on the job because design editor Mike Needs volunteered to leave. Needs has no job lined up but says, “I’m good. I’m fine.” At age 55 after 25 years of service at the Beacon, he feels it’s time to move on to something different. “I volunteered to have my name on the list.” he said. “I said ‘Put me on the list.”

Needs, who was the public editor, was named design editor on June 26 which provided an inkling of things to come.

There are many other stories linked to the layoff. We would like to hear about them all. It would be nice if some blog readers could help with job possiiblities, but these are indeed tough and tearful times.

Job info from Mark Phillips

Job Info: The blog is happy to publish job info but is not responsible for content. Here is an e-mail received from Mark Phillips.

I read on the blog that the Guild is looking for job options for staffers.. .(I used to be a Guild member at the Rep, and I feel really awful about this whole thing.)

I know of at least two positions at my former employer, Great Lakes Publishing, that would be good for reporters/editors... Great Lakes publishes Cleveland Magazine, Ohio Magazine and Inside Business Magazine and is coming out with a new magazine, West Shore...

The two positions I know of are for Inside Business, where I worked... To my knowledge, it would be a mix of custom publishing, and work on writing and editing on Inside Business and West Shore... The office is located in downtown Cleveland at Euclid and E. 14th...

If this sounds like something people would be interested in, please let me know so I can get more information... They're going to move quickly on these positions, I believe...

Mark Phillips in Jackson Township

Readers show little loyalty

It is funny how readers regard newspapers. Some people today do not even read them. I came from an Ohio county with three daily newspapers. I worked for the smallest of the three and hated to hear how people in our town believed the others were better. Not many readers had a good word to say about my newspaper. I came to Akron and the Beacon Journal because everyone considered it the best newspaper in Ohio. I was surprised to meet Akron residents who said, “Oh, you work for the Beacon Journal.” They made it sound like wow, it was a big deal that I worked at the BJ. I knew that residents of most other communities did not show that respect for their newspapers.

I was disheartened then when a supermarket checkhout cashier remarked recently. “They deserved to be sold.”

Readers are not kind. There will be comments like “How bad can it (the newspaper) get. They will have little sympathy for those who lost their jobs. “They were overpaid” is the comment you can expect.

E&P coverage of layoffs

Akron Beacon Journal Slashes 40 Newsroom Jobs

By E&P Staff
NEW YORK The Akron (Ohio) Beacon Journal cut 25% of its newsroom staff Tuesday. Forty employees will receive one-week of pay for every six months of service capped at one year.

Twenty-nine of the positions are full-time; 11 are part time. The cut affects four non-guild employees.

Management at the paper gave a 60-day notice in accordance with the newspaper guild contract. The layoffs are based on seniority within job classifications -- a last-in, first-out set-up.

“It is very sad,” said Rita Kelly Madick, a spokeswoman for the Beacon Journal. ”This is an amazing team of people. Even knowing it was coming didn’t help.

More lay-offs are planned for other departments. The paper employs 710 people.

The paper has experienced a significant decline in revenue over the last five years.

The Beacon Journal, a former Knight Ridder paper, was one of the deserted dozen after McClatchy acquired Knight Ridder in March. McClatchy sold the Beacon Journal to Black Press for $165 million.

David Black, the president of Black Press, said shortly after the acquisition that he intended to trim staff after the sale closed on Aug. 1.

The Beacon Journal is one of several metro newspapers that have trimmed staff. The Dallas Morning News announced it was cutting 17% of its news staff. The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, a rival of the Beacon Journal, announced it was offering a buyout package to employees 50 years or older with 20 years experience.

[Madick is promotion and marketing director]

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Photographers laid off

I received the following email from Bob DeMay, BJ photographer:

For those of you who have read the news today, just wanted to send everyone a note to fill in the blanks. Four photographers were among the 39 newsroom staffers at the Akron Beacon Journal who lost their jobs on Tuesday.

Lindsay Semple, Bob DeMay, Ken Love and Karen Schiely were the casualties in photo. All layoffs were by seniority. Staff photographers Jocelyn Williams and Robin Sallie are opting to take a contract provided voluntary layoff with severance. Their actions should save the jobs of Love and Schiely. The union contract at the paper calls for a 60 day notice before layoffs can be enacted. Other staffers have 60 days to opt for a voluntary layoff.

We will keep you all posted as things progress. In the meantime if your paper has openings at any position please let us know and we will share with other staffers here. We also lost two artists, 18 reporters, and 8 copy editors, a librarian and three clerks.

Meanwhile to the north The Plain Dealer has buyouts on the table targeted at senior staff members. Early indications are that many people are signing up for them. Beacon management said buyouts were not an option that was ever considered here.

Needless to say its a gloomy newsroom in Akron right now.

Bob DeMay
ONPA Board Chairman

The glory days of 1969

Way back in 1969 the Beacon Journal was 15th In news and 26th In advertising among U.S. newspapers. This was the lead story written by Mickery Porter in the Tower Topics March 1970 issue: .

The Beacon Journal has moved from 16th to 15th place among American newspapers in the amount of lines of news run last year, according to Media Records, the chief measuring organization in the industry.

This was the second straight . advance for the BJ, having moved from 28th place in 1967.

A total of 25,610,557 lines of news was presented to Akron area readers, up from 24,498,929 lines in 1968.

That's more news than was provided by any paper in Philadelphia, Baltimore, Houston, St. Louis, Milwaukee, San Francisco, Dallas, New Orleans, Columbus, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Minneapolis, Cincinnati, and on and on.

The 14 papers ahead of us, topped by the Los Angeles Times' 31.5 million lines, are, in order, the LA Times, New York Times, Miami Herald, Washington Post, Denver Post, San Francisco Examiner & Chronicle, Sacramento Bee, Cleveland Plain Dealer, San Jose Mercury, Boston Herald Traveler, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, Ft. Lauderdale News and Detroit News.

Following us, and rounding out the top 25, are the Newark News, Santa Ana Register, Oakland Tribune, Hartford Courant, San Diego Union, Columbus Dispatch, Seattle Times, Washington Star, Milwaukee Journal and St.Petersburg Times.

Total Advertising lineage also was up, although we slipped from 25th to 26th place.
Last year the BJ ran 48,708,172 lines of advertising as compared to 46,960,192 lines in 1968.However, we were the 12th ranked evening-Sunday combination, with only the Milwaukee Journal, Houston Chronicle, Minneapolis Star, Atlanta Journal, Ft. Lauderdale News, Columbus Dispatch, Dallas TimesHerald, Denver Post, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Santa Ana Register and Detroit News.

The Knight group placed four of its papers in the top 50 in advertising. The Miami Herald was third, behind the Los Angeles Times and New York Times; the Philadelphia Inquirer was 15th; the BJ 26th, and the Charlotte Observer 46th.


BJ layoffs reported on business front

Announcement of the layoff of one-fourth of its staff was made to the public in a Gloria Irwin story on the business front todaiy.

The headline:

Beacon to cut its news staffing
Dropping profits spur new owner to lay off quarter of newsroom

Irwin’s lead graphs said:

About one-quarter of the newsroom employees at the Akron Beacon Journal will lose their jobs within the next two months.

``It's a very sad day for the Beacon Journal,'' new publisher Edward R. Moss said Tuesday in announcing 39 layoffs, which he said are necessary to align costs with revenue.

The moves are part of a companywide restructuring that will result in additional job reductions, Moss said.

It was only the second time in the newspaper's 167-year history that there have been layoffs in the newsroom.

The last graph hints that the coverage of its traditional five-county area might be slashed also.

The restructured newspaper's efforts will focus on Summit County, its core market, said Managing Editor Mizell Stewart III.

Reuters reported the layoffs in seven graphs quoting a new Beacon Journal spokeswoman.

"The newspaper is profitable, but profits have been steadily declining and they've got to realign," said spokeswoman Rita Kelly Madick.

Click on the headline to read all of Irwin’s story or click here or Google to read the Reuters story.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Looking for jobs

Akron Newspaper Guild is looking for jobs for laid off staff members. Please remember the Guild has more than just reporters and copy editors being laid off. Jobs also are being sought for a librarian, three clerks, 4 photographers and 2 artists. If you hear anything that may be helpful to them, contact the Guild or let the blog know. Send Guild e-mail to Paula Schleis at

BJ layoffs announced

“Will the survivors envy the dead,” was a question of one staffer Tuesday afternoon when the Beacon Journal announced intentions to lay off about 25 per cent of the newsroom staff.

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.

Layoffs will save $2.3 million annually, according to publisher Edward Moss. [That figure must include other layoffs in the plant.] Moss and editor Debra Adams Simmons said there are no guarantees there will not be more layoffs. More layoffs will come for other employees outside the newsrooom. The newsroom layoffs came first apparently because of the 60-day notice requirement.

Guild members will get severance pay outlined in the contract–two weeks for each year worked up to two years' pay.

“Our goal is to stop the losses (in revenue), Moss said. Simmons said the cuts could have been deeper, but that conversations she had with the new owner yielded fewer layoffs.

The voluntary resignations will be accepted during the 60-day notice period with the same severance pay guaranteed.

“Most of you–your jobs will change” Simmons said.

[Nobody knows yet exactly how they will change, but those left behind no doubt will have to do the work of those who are leaving.]

New BJ ad boss named

Alton A. Brown was named vice president of advertising at the Beacon Journal on Monday. Brown has been vice president of advertising at Newspaper Networrk of Central Ohio since 2000, overseeing ad operations at 10 daily and 14 weekly publications and 25 telephone directories. He also worked several years at the Macon Telegraph, a Knight-Ridder newspaper before the breakup.

Keep tuned for more BJ announcements expected today.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Layoff rumors are flying

Rumors of Beacon Journal layoffs are flying. Channel 23 newscasts and e-mail from various sources keep saying the announcement will be (pick a day). Guild people say there has been no announcement. Guild contract provisions require a 60-day notice of any layoff plans and so far neither the owner nor publisher has given one. Some middle management folks have been talking to individual staff members so it is pretty messy around the newsroom. One rumor indicates that about 50 staff members will be cut.

Friday, August 18, 2006

McClatchy reports flat July

McClatchy reported that pro forma consolidated revenue was down 1.3% in July compared to the same period a year ago. Total ad revenue was flat. The July results include the addition of Knight Ridder papers.

Including print and online, retail ad revenue was up 1%. National dropped 6.9%. Classified revenue declined 2.6%. Within the classified category, real estate was up 13% while help wanted and auto decreased 10.1% and 8.2%, respectively.

By market, ad revenue in California was up 3.2%. For the Carolinas, ad revenue slipped 1.5%. Ad revenue grew in Florida, up 3.3% and the Northwest, up 5.7%. Ad revenue declined in the Midwest, down 5.4% and Texas, down 1.3%. All other markets were up 1.9%.

Circulation revenue decreased 7.1%. Daily circulation for July was down 3.3% and Sunday circulation was down 4.4%.

[Source: Editor & Publisher]

Leo & Theresa Osmar mark 50th

Leo & Theresa Osmar celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary with celebration of Mass and renewal of vows at 4:30 p.m. August 5, 2006 at St Bernard Catholic church in Akron. A noon dinner was celebtated at Waterloo Restaurant.

The former Theresa Lynch and her husband were married August 4, 1956 at St. Mary ProCathedral in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan where they had been baptized and confrrmed

They have eight children: Ludlow (Leisa), Ann (Michael) Wintrow, Christine Bohn, Bertha (Blake) Thompson, Susan (Frank) Jarvis, Vincent, Michael, and John (Christina). They have ten grandchildren: Joshua, Clayton and Amber Osmar, Megan and Marisa Wintrow, Richard Bohn, Christina and Cynthia Thompson, Theresa and Frank II Jarvis.

Leo retired from the composing room of the Akron Beacon Journal with 25 years service. Theresa never retired

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

PD offers buyouts

In an effort to cut costs, The Plain Dealer is offering lucrative buyout packages to newsroom and business office employees.

All of the newsroom's 370 employees and an undisclosed number of business office employees received letters Friday outlining buyout packages that would provide severance pay, health care coverage, retirement benefits and outplacement services.

Like most of the nation's 1,400 daily newspapers, The Plain Dealer has been dealing for several years with declining advertising revenue and circulation.

In addition to management-level editors, the newsroom has about 300 reporters, editors, photographers and support staff who are members of the Northeast Ohio Newspaper Guild.

About 65 of its members are eligible for the company's most lucrative buyout package.

Click on the headline above for more details.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

What do you want or expect?

There was a colossal production error in the Sunday Beacon Journal. A box with a school story on page A1 directed the reader to information on page A6. However, page A6 had a half-page promotion ad with a headline on the "Agile, thrilling, invigorating" Beacon Journal and no information on state school report cards as promised.

Akron readers who must decide on an additional operating levy for schools in the upcoming election are looking for information. The State Department of Education is to release statewide report card results on Monday. Perhaps the newspaper will be able to print that information or make it available on If not, we will have to give them a "D" on their report card.

Managing editor Mizell Stewart in his column on page A2 asks "Readers, what do you want to see in paper?"

For starters, how about the stuff you promised we would find on page A6.

15 at August lunch of BJ retirees

There were 15 at the Wednesday, Aug. 19, lunch of Beacon Journal retirees at Papa Joe’s restaurant at Portage Trail and Akron-Peninsula Road. They are Al Hunsicker, Gene McClellan, Dick Gresock, Bob Pell, Tim Hayes, Sandy Levenson, Cal Deshong, Carl Nelson, Bill Canterbury, Tom Moore, John Olesky, Ed Hanzel and wife Norma, and Watson Blanton and wife.

The group meets for food and conversation at 1 p.m. the second Wednesday of every month. Even if you aren’t retired yet, you’re welcome to stop by. If you haven’t tried it, we’ll pull up a chair for you. Or two if you want to bring your spouse.

It’s a fun time. There’s more laughter than bitching, although there is some of the latter.

P.S. Photos were taken, but we'll need to wait for Harry Liggett to get a new computer (the old one died) so that we can put them on this blog. Harry knows how to make photos appear magically. I don't.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Subtle change on page B3

The change was so subtle, I did not notice it until now. The name Edward R. Moss replaced James Curtchfield as publisher in the listings at the bottom on page 3 of the local section, beginning on Monday.

Welcome to the new publisher from the Retirees blog.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

$2 billion for dozen newspapers

The McClatchy Co. has finalized its sales on the last of a dozen former Knight Ridder newspapers following the purchase of the San Hose Mercury News and Contra Costa Times in California by MediaNews Group Inc., and the Monterey Herald in California and St. Paul Pioneer Press in Minnesota by the Hearst Corp. That completes more than $2 billion in sales for all 12 newspapers by McClatchy (NYSE: MNI), the new parent company of the Bradenton Herald.

"This is the final milestone in the McClatchy-Knight Ridder transaction, as we have now closed the sales of all the newspapers we identified for divestiture," said Gary Pruitt, chief executive officer of McClatchy, in a press release. "We are pleased to have executed as we promised in this deal, finding good buyers, getting full prices and helping ensure committed owners for all 12 papers we divested."

When the deal for McClatchy to acquire Knight Ridder was announced last March, company executives said they would sell 12 papers to prevent antitrust concerns by the government. They included the Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia's Daily News, Akron Beacon Journal in Ohio, the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader in Pennsylvania, Aberdeen American News in South Dakota, Grand Forks Herald in North Dakota, Fort Wayne News-Sentinel in Indiana, and the Duluth News Tribune in Minnesota.

With the completion of the sale, McClatchy becomes the nation's second-largest newspaper chain behind Gannett Co. with 32 daily newspapers and nearly 50 non-daily papers with a combined daily circulation of 3.2 million.

[Source: Tampa Bay Busness Journal]

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Retired printer Ed Fobean dies

Edward C. Fobean, age 76 of Alliance, died at 11:53 p.m. July 20, 2006 at Alliance Community Hospital. He was born Oct. 20, 1929 in Scranton, Pennsylvania to Joseph J. and Eva D. (Tranko) Fobean and lived in Alliance since 1934. Mr. Fobean graduated from Sebring McKinley High School and retired in 1992 from Akron Beacon Journal as a Supervisor in the Composing Room. He was a member of Masonic Lodge #271, VFW Post 1036, American Legion Post 166, Loyal Order of Moose #362, AARP, BPOE #467, PrinterÂ’s Club, International Typographical Union, and the Alliance YMCA. Mr. Fobean was also a U.S. Army Veteran. Survivors include two sons, Timothy Scott Fobean and Mark Edward Fobean, both of Alliance; one brother, Donald F. Fobean of Stow; and one sister, Doris A. Scott of Beloit. He was preceded in death by his parents and one brother, Joseph M. Fobean. A Memorial Service will be held at 11 a.m. Tuesday at Cassaday-Turkle-Christian Funeral Home with Major Raymond Patrick of the Alliance Salvation Army officiating. Friends may call one hour prior to the service.

Bottomline: Black Ltd. owns BJ

The Beacon Journal used only 82 words to announce that Black Press Ltd. is the new owner. The item appeared under the regular standing head, Bottomline, on the business section front on Tuesday, August 2.

Black Press Ltd.
now owns BJ
The Beacon Journal is now a Black Press Ltd. publication.

The $165 million sale of the Beacon Journal from McClatchy Co. to Black Press Ltd. of Canada closed as expected Tuesday.

California-based McClatchy acqured the paper after buying Knight-Ridder Inc. in June. McClatchy held on to 20 of Knight Ridder's newspapers in what it said are growing markets and sold the Beacon Journal and 11 others.

The paper will opeate under a Black Press Washington-based U.S. subsidiary, Sound Publishing Holdings Inc.

(Jim Crutchfield is still listed as publisher)

This blogger's 10-year-old HP comuter did not take kindly to the news. This item is being posted via a Dell computer at the Firestone Branch of Akron Public Library after a hard-drive crash.

Black Keys music with Heidi Klum

Victoria's Secret is using music from The Black Keys in a 15-second TV commercial. The spot features Heidi Klum posing in the new "Body" bra. "The Desperate Man," a sexy, bluesy track from The Black Keys third CD, "Rubber Factory," plays in the background. Black Keys drummer Patrick Carney, is the son of BJ staffer Jim Carney. Dan Auerbach is the guitarist of the duo. Photos of the two and of Heidi Klum are used with the story on Tuesday's business front.