Watch Gannett layoffs in slow motion

It’s layoff week at Gannett — even the second N and T might be redundant.

The largest U.S. newspaper publisher and owner of USA Today, the nation’s biggest-selling daily paper, is slashing payroll just in time for the holidays. We read about layoffs everywhere these days, but if you want to see the slow-motion car crash version of how Gannett is doing it, look to Gannett Blog, run by former company reporter Jim Hopkins.

With no newspaper job to keep him busy, Hopkins chronicles nearly every event that he hears about Gannett. That includes a dose of rumor, but much of what he reports is more right than wrong.

Here is one of his latest reports:

Gannett launched what is likely the biggest mass layoff in newspaper industry history yesterday, slashing 655 jobs by early this morning, in an increasingly desperate bid to return the troubled 102-year-old publisher to prosperity. The final tally could run into the thousands.

Many more layoffs are expected today and tomorrow across the 85-daily community newspaper division, plus USA Today and the Detroit Free Press. As of 1:25 a.m. ET, only 17 papers had been accounted for, based on published accounts and Gannett Blog reader reports.

Cox: More depressing newspaper news

You don’t need another depressing analysis of a depressing story about newspapers, so we’ll spare you everything but the press release. We will note, however, that it’s getting harder to say, “Let the wires get it” when the wires are slimming down too. And this is hardly the first DC bureau to get nailed.

ATLANTA (December 2, 2008) – Cox Newspapers has announced its plans to close its Washington, D.C.-based national and international news bureau on April 1, 2009. This decision follows Cox’s earlier announcement to offer its newspaper operations in Texas, North Carolina and Colorado for sale.

Cox’s metro newspapers The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Dayton Daily News will manage their own Washington and international newsgathering independently following the national bureau’s closing through dedicated correspondents in D.C. Eligible employees of the bureau will be offered generous severance packages and continued employment through March 31, 2009.

Christian Science Monitor signs McClatchy

We were rather pleased with ourselves for flagging a quick aside that Christian Science Monitor Editor John Yemma made in our interview with him a few weeks ago about how the weekday newspaper — which is abandoning its daily print edition next year — will look for newspapers interested in publishing its stories.

The idea is that the CSM can make itself some extra money from those newspapers, even as their publishers flail under a rising tide of debt and falling advertising revenue. For McClatchy’s papers, which include the Anchorage Daily News, the Bee newspapers in California and the remnants of the Knight Ridder empire, it means more overseas coverage when most U.S. papers are cutting back.

Here’s the excerpt from Monday’s press release:

The Monitor and McClatchy will make edited stories by Monitor foreign correspondents Mark Sappenfield, based in New Delhi, and Sara Miller Llana, based in Mexico City, and McClatchy foreign correspondents Shashank Bengali, based in Nairobi, Kenya, and Tyler Bridges, based in Caracas, Venezuela, available to one another when they’re ready for publication.

NewsHour gets $3.5 million from Gates Foundation

Here’s an excerpt from the press release from the well known weeknight news program:

The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer announced today that public broadcaster WETA, its co-producer, has received a three-year, $3.5 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to establish a dedicated NewsHour production unit to report on important global health issues….

The Gates Foundation grant will enable The NewsHour to significantly expand its broadcast and online coverage of major global health issues affecting developing nations, such as malaria, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, measles and neglected diseases. The NewsHour will also report on how global health challenges are being addressed from both scientific and public policy perspectives.

It’s Midway or the highway for Redstone

Sumner Redstone is selling low — way low. Here’s The Wall Street Journal with the news:

In an effort to help resolve his debt problems, Sumner Redstone has sold his controlling stake in videogame company Midway Games Inc to a private investor.

Mr. Redstone’s holding company, National Amusements Inc., is expected to announce Monday that it sold its 87% stake in Midway to investor Mark Thomas, a move that represents a significant loss on the media mogul’s investment but secures a hefty tax benefit as he negotiates other asset sales.

from Summit Notebook:

Time Warner Cable and the Audacity of Hope

It's not every day that you have a top executive in big business talk about how nice it will be to see the back of the Bush administration. Republican presidencies typically tout their adherence to free markets, unbridled capitalism and, most importantly, a smaller pile of what corporations often consider burdensome regulations. That isn't what they usually expect from Democratic administrations, even ones led by Barack Obama.

That's why we thought it so interesting that Time Warner Cable's chief financial officer, Rob Marcus, is happy for some turnover at the Federal Communications Commission. It is the FCC, after all, that has to approve some key licenses for Time Warner Cable's split from its majority owner, Time Warner Inc. For some reason, the FCC can't seem to find room on its schedule to do that, and that seems to have irked Marcus. It is, after all, preventing the two companies from separating by the time Time Warner Cable said it would.

"There's nothing substantive that has currently arisen in connection with the FCC approval. They just haven't put it on the agenda," he told the Reuters Media Summit in New York on Monday.

How I Wolff’d down the Murdoch book

After nearly setting off my tilt mechanism at Thanksgiving dinner by eating twice my weight in food, I spent the earlier part of Friday gorging on as much of Michael Wolff’s new Rupert Murdoch biography as I could. I read just enough to think of some questions for Wolff that wouldn’t come off as sounding too stupid, and then we got on the phone.

First, a short reminder of why we care about Rupert Murdoch and want to read Wolff’s book, “The Man Who Owns the News,” which Broadway Books, an imprint of Random House’s Doubleday label, is releasing on Dec. 2 (after passing some copies around to people like me):

    Murdoch is the legendarily aggressive Australian businessman who built News Corp into an international media empire. He owns this crazy collection of stuff, from MySpace to the New York Post to Sky Italia to stakes in companies in countries you’ve never even heard of. He did it despite — and perhaps because of — his treatment by more well-heeled media contemporaries as a vulgar, Antipodean mutant form of themselves. He’s a big risk-taker, as evidenced by his $5.6 billion purchase of Dow Jones & Co and its crown jewel, The Wall Street Journal. That price was 65 percent more than the company was worth. His love life with the much younger Wendi Deng causes constant speculation about who will run his empire when he is gone. Some people think he uses his news outlets to advance his business interests, something that in utterly unremarkable in certain parts of the world.

Now for some Q&A with Michael Wolff. We moved one or two items out of chronological order to preserve a bit of continuity with the questions.

Icahn helps himself to some Yahoo

Activist investor Carl Icahn helped himself to some early Thanksgiving turkey, buying more shares in Yahoo on Wednesday.

Here’s Silicon Alley Insider’s Henry Blodget with the basics:

Well, don’t accuse Carl Icahn of cutting and running. After losing $1 billion on his massive Yahoo bet–he bought 69 million shares last spring at about $25–Carl Icahn has (figuratively speaking) doubled down.

In the past three days, the raider has bought another 6.7 million shares of Yahoo for about $65 million, bringing his total to 75.6 million shares. At today’s closing price of $10.58, Carl’s stake is worth $800 million, about $900 million less than he paid for his original position. The 76 million shares amount to 5.4% of the company.

Newspaper ad revenue falls. Again.

The third-quarter newspaper advertising numbers came out on Wednesday, just in time to have something somber to think about while getting tipsy on that fourth helping of cranberry sauce with cognac on Thanksgiving Day.

The upshot:

Print ad revenue down 19.26 percent to $8.2 billion. (Down 16.07 percent in Q2, down 14.38 percent in Q1)
Online ad revenue down 3 percent to $749.8 million. (Down 2.4 percent in Q2, up 7.2 percent in Q1)
Combined is down 18.11 percent to $8.94 billion. (Down 15.11 percent in Q2, Down 12.85 percent in Q1)

We could throw other numbers at you to prove a point, but instead we’ll just do the instant analysis: These numbers are bad bad bad. The trend, as you might guess, also is bad.

MySpace Music finds conductor

Meet News Corp’s latest cool dude: Courtney Holt, president of MySpace Music. They say he’s not only talented, but he’s hip as well — and reports of his arrival were, to say the least, plentiful.

Here is his history, as outlined by MySpace’s press release:

Holt previously served as Executive Vice President of Digital Music for the MTV Networks Music and Logo Group where he oversaw several initiatives for the company’s digital music group, including working with the MTV, VH1 and CMT brands… Prior to joining MTV, Holt was Senior Vice President of New Media, Creative and Strategic Marketing at Interscope Geffen A&M.

It couldn’t hurt that he used MySpace to tout new albums from well-known pop acts such as Weezer, Nine Inch Nails, Beck, Black Eyed Peas, and Audioslave.