Corporate Power/Consolidation

Murdoch: web papers should charge readers

Yinka Adegoke, Reuters

Rupert Murdoch, whose media company News Corp owns one of the few U.S. newspapers that makes people pay to read its news on the Web, said more papers will have to start doing the same to survive.

Murdoch, who bought The Wall Street Journal and its parent company Dow Jones & Co in 2007, said online advertising, which most U.S. publishers hope will offset ad revenue declines at their print divisions, will not cover their costs.

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Verizon, AT&T may tell US to keep $7.2 billion stimulus money

Molly Peterson, Bloomberg

Verizon Communications Inc. and AT&T Inc. may have this response to the U.S. government’s offer of $7.2 billion for high-speed Internet projects: Keep it.

Unlike the businesses that welcomed the $787 billion stimulus package approved by Congress last month, the two biggest U.S. phone companies have reservations. They’re urging the government not to help other companies compete with them through broadband grants or to set new conditions on how Internet access should be provided.

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Chicago Sun-Times files for bankruptcy

James P. Miller, Chicago Tribune

[RTM note: see also May Conrad Black and David Radler Rot In Hell.]

Sun-Times Media Group Inc., reeling from a painful revenue decline and tax liabilities that date back to the looting of the company during the tenure of former CEO Conrad Black, disclosed Tuesday that it has filed for protection from creditors under Chapter 11 of the federal bankruptcy code.

The publisher of the Chicago Sun-Times and other Chicago-area papers emphasized that it will continue to operate its newspapers and online sites as usual "while it focuses on further improving its cost structure and stabilizing operations" during the Chapter 11 financial reorganization.

Tuesday's filing can't be characterized as a surprise. Many observers have marveled that the company has been able to stay on its feet as long as it has, given the pressures it faces.

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Consolidation won't save journalism

Craig Aaron and Joe Torres, The Guardian

Last week, House speaker Nancy Pelosi, whose hometown San Francisco Chronicle is in trouble, asked attorney general Eric Holder to consider loosening antitrust laws to help out struggling newspapers by allowing more media mergers. Holder responded by saying he is open to revisiting the rules.

Pelosi's request sounds innocuous at first – after all, struggling newspapers seem to need all the help they can get. But opening the door to more media consolidation is not the cure for the crisis in journalism. More of this bad medicine will only weaken reporting and worsen the health of our democracy.

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Copps suggests possibility of revisiting cross-ownership rule

Todd Shields, Bloomberg

The Federal Communications Commission should reconsider restrictions on combined ownership of broadcast stations and newspapers as daily publications struggle with a plunge in revenue, the agency’s head said.

The agency should “visit this whole problem” before long, Michael Copps, acting chairman of the FCC, said in an interview today.

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Will Seattle Times follow P-I into the sunset?

Associated Press

As the Seattle Post-Intelligencer moves toward printing its last edition, it remains unclear whether its bigger rival, The Seattle Times, is far behind -- and whether the famously literate city soon could find itself without a major daily newspaper.

The Times is heavily in debt and struggling to cut expenses, like many other newspapers across the country. But the Times is different from many large newspapers because it is controlled by the Seattle-area Blethen family and doesn't have deep corporate pockets from which to draw.

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Last P-I printed; Seattle becomes a journalism lab

Gene Johnson, Associated Press

Patrick Sheldon has been a loyal reader of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer since 1965, when his dad started buying it because he preferred its sports coverage to that of rival Seattle Times.

Will he continue being a loyal reader, now that the P-I exists only as a Web site? Like many of the paper's customers, he says it depends on who writes and what they cover.

"If it's just bloggers, I probably won't," he said, sitting on a ferry from Bainbridge Island to Seattle.

After 146 years, the P-I's final edition rolled off the presses Tuesday, but a skeleton crew remained in the cavernous newsroom to take part in a journalistic experiment: whether a major newspaper can make money, and consistently produce good stories, as an Internet-only operation. It's the first major U.S. daily paper to switch from print to digital, a step that the P-I's parent company, Hearst Corp., took after it failed to find a buyer for the newspaper.

Seat

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Union accepts cuts in response to Hearst threat to shut down SF Chronicle

Associated Press

The San Francisco Chronicle and its largest union reached a tentative agreement on contract concessions that are part of the newspaper's efforts to dramatically cut costs to prevent a sale or closure.

The terms reached Monday with the California Media Workers Guild give the company expanded ability to lay off employees without regard to seniority, according to a statement on the guild's Web site.

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McClatchy cutting 1,600 additional jobs

Associated Press

McClatchy Co. is shearing an additional 1,600 jobs in a cost-cutting spree that has clipped nearly one-third of the newspaper publisher's work force in less than a year.

The latest reduction in payroll announced Monday follows through on the Sacramento, Calif.-based company's previously disclosed plans to lower its expenses by as much as $110 million over the next year as its revenue evaporates amid a devastating recession. The layoffs will start before April. Several of McClatchy's 30 daily newspapers, including The Sacramento Bee and The Kansas City (Mo.) Star, already have decided how many workers will be shown the door.

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Hearst to begin charging for digital news

Shira Ovide, Digits/Wall Street Journal

Hearst said its newspapers plan to hold back at least some content from their free Web sites, launching the publisher onto the vanguard of print media companies to begin charging for their digital news and information.

A top executive at Hearst, which publishes 16 newspapers including the Houston Chronicle and Seattle Post-Intelligencer, said the company is mulling how much of its online offerings to keep free, while reserving some content exclusively for people who pay.

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The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey