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.
Moody’s thumbed through the newspapers of the United States on Monday and concluded what many of us know: the outlook is negative. The summary: ad revenue falls, less money comes in, newspapers have to cut back to survive and it gets harder to pay their debt.
The New York Times Co’s announcement on Thursday that it’s cutting its dividend by almost 75 percent is a pretty grim indicator of the fortunes of the storied newspaper publisher. It also is fraught with implications. It prompted us to put some of the numbers in perspective, but first, here’s a recap of the news:
Here’s a fun one from my colleague Emily Kaiser, who’s reporting from Capitol Hill today (she’s monitoring the hearing on TV. Turns out we have someone else there. That’s what you get when you write about DC from New York), specifically from the Financial Services Committee in the House of Representatives:
The American Press Institute went through with its plan to bring top U.S. newspaper publishers together in a room this week to figure out how to keep themselves alive despite all the financial evidence showing that hospice care might be their best bet at this point. It also, as we reported before, was closed to press, and none of the 50 executives who went were named. (UPDATE: Thanks to a good friend who supplied me with the list, it appears at the end of the post.)
Newspaper publishers throughout the United States are cutting dividends, paper size, circulation, coverage, reporting jobs, editing jobs, advertising salesman jobs, copy editing jobs. Yes, even copy editing has to fall under the newspaper delivery truck sometime. Despite that, publisher EW Scripps — itself shedding workers — still is churning out tomorrow’s precision-focused language geeks for the copy desk.