Saturday, August 28, 2010

One Nation, marching for progress

We've gotten word on several upcoming Guild initiatives, and the immediate future is shaping up to be very busy indeed.

One Nation March

CWA is asking all members to consider participating in the One Nation March, in support of real progress. Blue collar and middle class Americans are this nation's most valuable resource, and we deserve a government dedicated to strengthening and protecting our economy, our families, and our rights.

In addition, the Guild is seeking additional media industry organizers, launching a study with the University of Missouri to examine the value of newspapers, and several other projects. Visit the Guild's update page for more information.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Content for nothing

Online advertising is more popular than ever, and represents an ever-increasing slice of the media revenue pie. But as media properties grow their online audience, advertising revenues have seen their margins slashed.

Daniel Lyons at Newsweek points out that The Huffington Post, top dog of online media, will earn approximately $30 million in revenue this year. That's despite having five times the audience of The Washington Post.

As a comparison, the Washington Post recorded over $45 million in profit for Q1 of 2009. Their revenue? $1.17 billion. That's for the quarter, not the year.

Lyons reports that Michael Wolff, founder of, has had his online advertising fall by 20% in terms of CPM value. Even as the overall audience grows, the value of each individual reader is falling.

Compounding the problem is that few readers seem to value online content. According to USC's Digital Future study, exactly zero percent of respondents showed any willingness to pay for online content. And doubly vexing, most were unhappy with online advertising too.

Jolie O'Dell at analyzes the results.

“Such an extreme finding that produced a zero response underscores the difficulty of getting Internet users to pay for anything that they already receive for free,” says Jeffrey I. Cole, the Annenberg School’s director of the Center for the Digital Future.

So what's the solution? Paywalls? As the source of online content shrinks with every reporter laid off or masthead shuttered, online purveyors like Yahoo! and AOL have attempted to fill the void with in-house content. But is Yahoo's acquisition of Associated Content really equal to professional journalism? Is an article written by "anyone" (so says AC's About Us page) which cost the company $5 and was written to capitalize on the latest Google Trend, really a substitute for in-depth coverage of current events?

What do you think?

Friday, July 16, 2010

Guild reaches deal in NY

PoynterOnline is reporting that the Guild has reached a "tentative agreement" with Time Inc. The three-year contract provides Guild members yearly pay increases and additional job security, and in return Time Inc. will have greater flexibilty in assigning work to employees. Specific details of the contract will be released after the deal is ratified by Guild members.

Guild President Bill O’Meara said he was “extremely pleased that we could come to an amicable agreement with the company, despite the challenging times facing the print industry."

“I believe our agreement gives Time Inc. the sort of flexibility that is going to be required to insure its success in this rapidly changing world of communications,” O’Meara said. “And, in return, Time Inc. has given our members an added measure of job security."

Thursday, July 1, 2010

LAPC honors SoCal journalists

The 2010 Los Angeles Press Club SoCal Journalism Awards included members of both our Daily News and Press-Telegram units, and we'd like to congratulate not only the winners, but everyone in each newsroom for producing the quality journalism that's so vital to local communities.

Tracy Manzer and Kelly Puente shared top honors in the Hard News category, followed by Press-Telegram reporter Greg Mellen in second place.

Read the article

In sports, the Daily News' Jon Gold was recognized for his coverage of Skid Row's Midnight Mission basketball team.

Read the article

In photography, our members again grabbed the spotlight. For news photography, Jeff Gritchen took first place, followed by David Crane. Honorable mention went to Stephen Carr.

Features photography honors went to John McCoy, and second place went to Mike Baker. Brittany Murray received honorable mention.

Sports photography was also capped by the DN's John McCoy, followed by Stephen Carr in second place and Hans Gutknecht with an honorable mention.

We tried to find the photos to showcase them here, but it's been difficult to locate them. We'll update the post if we can track the pictures down.

Again, congratulations to all our winners on a job well done. You, and the rest of your newsrooms, deserve it all. Bravo!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Bankruptcy brings new owners, new business models

As the newspaper industry reels from bankruptcies among some of its most powerful players, a new class of investors have quietly stepped in, seeking to capitalize on rock-bottom stock prices.

Michael Oneal of the Chicago Tribune suggests that this isn't a takeover of the industry, but it will have an impact - the scope of which remains to be determined.

The natural tension for funds like Angelo Gordon, however, is that they don't have unlimited time to wait for their investments to bear fruit. Their compensation and fee structure is generally based on raising a fund, investing it to generate 20 to 30 percent annual returns and then monetizing those returns over a period of a few years.

That tension may have led to a parting of the ways between the firm and Brad Pattelli, who gained attention this year as the architect of Angelo Gordon's extensive newspaper investments. Neither Pattelli nor the firm would comment for this story. But John Johnson Jr., who runs a company called Foamex International Inc. and has sat on a number of boards for Angelo Gordon in the past, said Pattelli was interested in business-building in the media industry, not just trading in and out of distressed companies.

"Brad wants to move up and have more of a say in how companies are managed," said Johnson. "But funds have a time limit on them."

Despite their time constraints, many believe the hedge funds will be forced to remain patient if they want to reap what they've sown in newspapers. Johnson believes the funds may not have a firm exit strategy in mind, and it will take sure signs of a recovery to grease deals and provide liquidity. For that reason, Dunning thinks any real shuffling is probably months away as financial players continue to learn what's possible and wait for exit opportunities to present themselves.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Bankruptcy may spur growth, profits

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett told his annual meeting that it "blows your mind" how quickly the newspaper industry is losing the fight for readers and advertisers.

Despite dire warning from Berkshire Hathaway, many in the industry say that bankruptcy, and the attendant release of enormous debt structures, will enable many newspapers to preserve, and even grow advertising revenue.

In this article from Reuters, experts like Alan Mutter suggest that reinvestment will allow titans like MediaNews to reverse declining fortunes.

"These companies are trying to come up with new products beyond yesterday's news in tomorrow's paper," said newspaper consultant Alan Mutter. "They get that the business is declining and wasting."

He pointed to MediaNews Group, which recently introduced a glossy lifestyle magazine to supplement its 54 dailies and their circulation of more than 2 million.

"The fact is, that's something they could not have done before bankruptcy," said Mutter.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Eve of destruction

Sumner Redstone, Chairman of Viacom, says newspapers are not only dying, they're dead. And in two years, they'll be extinct.

According to BusinessWeek, the comments came as part of a dig at News Corp. and Rupert Murdoch.

“He lives in ink, and I live in movies and television,” Redstone said. “Ink is going to go away, and movies and television will be here forever, like me.”

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Better Newspapers Contest winners

The California Newspaper Publishers Association announced the winners of their 2009 Better Newspapers Contest on Saturday. The Daily News photographer John McCoy was recognized in the general news photograph category for a photo of the Sayre Fire.

Congratulations to John and the rest of the team for their outstanding work.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Your new Guild steward

We'd like to announce that graphic artist Tom Gapen has stepped forward to help his coworkers and bargaining unit at the Los Angeles Daily News, by serving as a Guild steward.

As a steward, Gapen will be able to provide information to other members, and act as a Guild representative in the newsroom.

We invite everyone to thank Tom for coming forward. Or better yet, join him! Stewards play an important role in protecting and promoting the newsroom and the interests of our members. The more active members in the newsroom, the better!

If you have any questions about becoming a steward, please contact Vicki DiPaolo at 562-259-9430, or by email at

Monday, March 8, 2010

Bankruptcy update

A federal judge has approved a bankruptcy reorganization plan presented by Denver-based Affiliated Media, Inc., clearing the way for the newspaper owner to emerge from chapter 11 protection within the next two weeks.

The Hon. Kevin J. Carey of U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware confirmed the plan at a hearing Thursday. The plan reduces the firm's debt by about 81 percent, from approximately $930 million to approximately $165 million.

Affiliated Media is the nation's second-largest newspaper publisher by circulation and owner of 54 daily newspapers, including the Los Angeles Daily News and the Long Beach Press-Telegram. Formerly known as MediaNews Group, the firm changed it's name last year to Affiliated Media, Inc., according to lawyers from Affiliated.

The reorganization, which will retain the MediaNews Group leadership at the helm of Affiliated, was approved prior to the filing by more than 90 percent of the firm's debtors.

Dean Singleton told the Salt Lake Tribune on Thursday that the lenders, mainly a group of banks led by Bank of America, would play no role in managing Affiliated or its properties.

Under the approved reorganization plan, Affiliated's debtors will own about 88 percent firm, with the former-MediaNews Group leadership retaining the rest. Stipulations in the plan allow the MediaNews Group leadership, including Singleton, to eventually own up to 20 percent of the firm.

The newly created seven-member Board of Directors for Affiliated includes Singleton, Utah billionaire Jon Huntsman Sr., Jody Lodovic, president of MediaNews, and Howell Begle Jr., the firm's general counsel. Under the bankruptcy plan these four Class A seats were selected by the former MediaNews leadership.

Class B directors named to the board by the lenders include Joseph Euteneurer, chief financial officer of Qwest Communications International, and Michael Sileck, former chief operating officer of World Wrestling Entertainment. And additional seat on the board remains to be named by the lenders.

Singleton will get a base salary of $634,000 in addition to a $360,000 salary at Denver Post Corp., court papers show. He will receive 6 percent of the reorganized company’s stock, out of about 11 percent reserved for management, and warrants to buy 8 percent more. He is eligible for a performance bonus of as much as $500,000 a year.

Lodovic’s base salary will be about $1 million plus 3 percent of the reorganized company’s stock. He will be eligible for a yearly bonus of up to $500,000, according to court documents. He already has received $500,000 for achieving goals in the restructuring process and stands to receive $250,000 more as part of a deal to win confirmation by March 31 and execute the turnaround plan by April 14.

Top executives not including Singleton or Lodovic stand to receive bonuses totaling $1.6 million and will receive up to 2 percent of the reserved Affiliated stock.

According to lawyers for the Guild, the reorganization should have no impact on the National Labor Relations Board settlement over the illegal transfer of employees from the Press Telegram to the Daily Breeze.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Bankruptcy leads to ownership change

MediaNews CEO Dean Singleton announced today that the company has entered into a debt restructuring agreement as part of Chapter 11 proceedings.

Affiliated Media Inc., the holding company for MediaNews, will have their debt load reduced from $930 million to $165 million. According to the Wall Street Journal, the company's value has been estimated at $200 million.

As part of the agreement, majority ownership of the company has been given to Bank of America and other debtholders. Singleton and MediaNews President Joseph Lodovic now control 20 percent of the company stock. The pair maintain control of all class A shares however, enabling Singleton and Lodovic to elect a majority of the board of directors.

No restructuring of individual properties or newsrooms are planned, according to Singleton, who characterized the move as a blessing for the cash-strapped empire, and perhaps an opportunity to expand further.

“Current shareholders will be losing the value of their holdings. But we believe that adopting this plan will give us a far better platform from which to develop, grow and participate in the consolidation and re-invention of the newspaper industry.”

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Debunking the 'bias'

Romanesko today has a link to an article from the American Spectator. It makes a lot of bold claims about newspapers and reporters. Few of them are true.

Reviving the tired argument that newspapers have a "liberal bias," American Spectator senior editor Tom Bethell tries to put a new spin on the idea, citing union membership for the supposed leftist slant of U.S. newspapers. He doesn't try to demonstrate that there's a bias however. You'll just have to take his word for it.

From there, Bethell embarks on a long wandering indictment of labor unions, specifically those in the newspaper industry. But none of his criticisms have anything to do with The Newspaper Guild, Communications Workers of America, or any organized news unit. Instead, Bethell drags out shopworn cliches like the auto workers and the airline industry as convenient stand-ins, warning that newspapers may be doomed just because their employees have the ability to negotiate collectively.

Adding insult to injury, Bethell suggests that Guild units "are disposed to keep on doing their thing out of habit even if it threatens to put their own company out of business." He ignores the glut of stories documenting concessions and back-breaking sacrifice accepted by our members, including this unit.

Here's a very incomplete list of other Guild units that have agreed to concessions, found after just two minutes with Google.

Minnesota Guild approves concessions for bankrupt Star-Tribune

Chronicle workers vote 10 to 1 for concessions

Yakima Herald-Republic Concessions Agreement

Paper handlers union is fourth to approve concessions at Globe

To be fair, the Spectator hit piece acknowledges the holes in its argument - right before it glosses them over. Here's one such caveat:

To be sure, major newspapers are not closed shops, and a reporter hired by the Post has the option of joining the Guild or not. The Guild is moderate, as unions go.

Which sounds nice, until you realize that he's already called us self-righteous, irrational bullies. Nevermind the long list or documented cases of intimidation and illegal firings that face our members. But again, facts don't seem that important here.

Regardless, everyone is entitled to their opinion. We aren't in the business of arguing with people and groups that sacrifice reality for ideology. Disagreement is natural, even healthy, but differences of opinion should be rooted in facts, not lies.

The real question is why Romanesko is linking to an old the article in the first place. It's been out for over a month now. What purpose is served by enabling those who attempt to distort the truth, and do it as a weapon against the industry that Romanesko ostensibly serves?

Like the article, it makes no sense.