Beacon Journal offers buyouts — not much info

Came back from my run this morning and as usual took a look at the Akron Beacon Journal. The dead-tree edition. I like the printed versions of newspapers. And yeah, I know, it’s generational. When there are no more printed newspapers I’ll read online. In the meantime, I like to hold it, fold it and make just enough noise with it to irritate those around me.

But as just about everyone knows, newspapers are having a tough go of it these days. Too much competition on the Internet. Not enough advertising. On and on. Anyway, the Beacon Journal has been riding this sled down a steep hill for some years now: sale to a new owner, staff reductions, reduced coverage, etc. Yet in today’s paper — pretty much buried in what used to be known as the Business Section — was this article:

(Can’t find it online — which, of course, is a whole other issue. If few are reading the printed version, and the online version basically bites, well…)

Beacon Journal offering buyouts

The Akron Beacon Journal announced Tuesday that it is offering early retirement and buyout packages to all newsroom employees.

“We are offering these packages because of the economic downturn the newspaper industry is facing. The Beacon Journal is no exception,” editor and vice president Bruce Winges said. “We believe that these packages are a generous alternative to layoffs.”

The early-retirement package is available to employees 55 years and older. The buyout is available to all newsroom employees.

Ah, gee, Mr. Editor. And the rest of the story is…oops, that’s all there is. Are there going to be layoffs? How many? Why now? What’s this mean to readers? The community? You know.

Just two points here.

First, I’ve always been amused that newspapers (and other news organizations) are less open with the public than their own reporters demand in similar stories with other organizations. Think this story would have been reported differently if Goodyear, Akron General, Kent State had made the announcement?

Second, I don’t pretend to understand the economics of the newspaper business. So I don’t know what an acceptable level of profitability or return is. But unless a newspaper — like the Beacon Journal — is grossly overstaffed (which I seriously doubt) then every time a reporter or editor is let go it has to reduce coverage and diminish the product. The remaining staff can only do so much. And at some point you have to consider whether you have reduced the staff to such a level that the product is no longer worth the effort — to produce or read. When and if that happens, I think all of us lose — and not just here in Akron.

So it goes.

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