Why publicize newspaper job cuts?
I am as angry as anyone about what is happening at the Tribune Co. (and elsewhere) and I am as sympathetic as can be toward the people who are losing their jobs. But I don't see the point of going to these lengths to publicize the job cuts.
All the demonstration did was call further attention to the unfortunate decline of the newspaper, which may cause readers to unsubscribe and advertisers to unadvertise – perhaps hastening the day there will be more layoffs. So, how is this a good idea?
I put the question to Bill Atkinson, a former Sun columnist who became a public relations consultant and now is acting as the unpaid spokesman for the paper’s Guild members. Here is his response:
You know better than I do that the transformation in the newspaper industry is bigger than any single protest. Show me where keeping your mouth shut in this business has generated more ad revenue or resulted in circulation gains.
So, why not protest 100 job cuts at the Baltimore Sun? Reporters, editors, columnists, copy editors, photographers love the paper and take pride in putting out an exceptional product, but they are tired of the cuts, they are tired of being told to “do more with less,” they are tired of the uncertainty. Why not tell the public that the newspaper might be better off in local hands? Why not wave signs that read, “Sun Burned” or “Sun Lite”?
Will the protest drive circulation down at The Sun? It might. Will some advertisers pick up and leave? Possibly. But management has driven away more advertisers and turned off more readers over the years because of its inability to understand the power of the Internet and react to it.
For years, we have watched management struggle to figure out how to reach readers and service advertisers. For years we've watched them ignore their clunky websites because they were too busy dreaming up products that ultimately flopped. Today, the employees are the ones paying the price.
So why not protest?
It's no secret that The Sun is struggling. Anybody who subscribes knows that just by holding the paper in his hands. What’s more, newspapers across the country, including The Sun, carry stories about plunging circulation and advertising revenue that readers actually read. For that matter, your blog seems much louder than a group of protesting journalists. It contains plenty of eye-popping headlines like:
:: How close to default is your newspaper?
:: S.J. Merc staff gutted by 62.5 percent
:: Deeper staff cuts likely at newspapers
Could this drumbeat of negative headlines and stories be responsible for driving down newspaper circulation and stock prices? Can we blame these stories for priming the pump for the next round of layoffs?
In a month's time, when readers open The Sun and no longer see the faces of the columnists they once loved to read, then you will see real declines in circulation and advertising.
So, why not protest? Why not vent? Maybe somebody will listen and The Sun will be placed in better hands.