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When Goliath Stumbles

A couple of days ago I wrote a blog concerning just a few of the problems facing major daily newspapers these days, and why independent and alternative publications have considerably more room to grow than their much larger competitors. Ironically (tragically for some), the Clarion-Ledger ran an article (Clarion-Ledger cuts 20 positions) today concerning the elimination of 20 jobs and that it would be freezing "several open positions as part of Gannett Co. Inc.'s previously announced companywide reduction in force." Perhaps writers at the Clarion-Ledger should reconsider heavy coverage of dead celebrities and start contemplating the dying behemoths behind so-called "modern" print journalism.

The Gannett announcement (which can be found here) states the company will be cutting about 1400 employees nationwide yet affords what few condolences it can. Mostly it's just more sour news for journalists in the daily newspaper biz. To the employees who will remain at the Clarion-Ledger, please note that Gannett certainly gives recognition: "With your help, our various cost savings initiatives are making a difference." Careful, though, "your help" entitles a lot more than cooperation and extra hours. It actually means quite the contrary.

The memo mentions furloughs, and that there won't be any more for the remainder of the year. Historically, a furlough was something sought after by soldiers, say, in the American Revolution or Civil War. It was a leave of absence ranging anywhere from two weeks to two months that gave a soldier time to visit his family before returning to the front lines. Several soldiers (particularly in the South) took this opportunity to escape the wretched fog of war in which many of them had been involuntarily placed.

In newspaper parlance, a furlough refers to giving an employee around two weeks unpaid leave. Or, rather, forcing them too. A few of my friends in the industry (at an unnamed Gannett newspaper) jokingly refer to furloughs as mini-vacations and actually look forward to them. I suspect the bigger picture here is a media corporation that's grown too big for its britches and is trying to find a quick fix for rapid revenue loss.

Instead of being relieved by Gannett stating it won't be doling out more furloughs, I suggest employees (for the parent company or otherwise) start examining their job options. In fact, I suggest reporters at newspapers owned by larger media corporations should take after soldiers who received furloughs in the past and get out while the getting's good (i.e. before you find your publication being shut down like the Rocky Mountain News). Maybe it's time to admit that despite Gannett's best hopes the economy will improve, print journalism needs a major makeover before daily newspapers will relive the glory days.

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