We all know newspapers and newspaper companies are doing poorly right now. Ever since this summer, when my company, GateHouse Media, was reported to have its stock valued at less than $1 and was “worthless“, people in the offices have been, to say the least, concerned.
Cue Kirk Davis, GateHouse’s publisher. He came into our offices this past Thursday and Friday to try and give employees a better grasp of what’s going on. In the three hour meeting on Thursday, Davis showed us a slide show and mentioned numerous times that every newspaper company is doing badly right now, not just us. He said he felt optimistic for the future of the company.
What got me down, and most of my colleagues, was when someone asked if there would be staff reductions and the answer was yes. The kicker: Those reductions would come from the newsroom. Right now, our Metro unit is basically a group of weekly papers. The typical staff is one reporter and one editor. How can we cut newsroom positions in our unit? I understand Davis was talking about the entire GHM New England section, but it is distressing to think about cuts happening to that section.
With cuts, the quality of the papers will go down even more than they have already. One person cannot edit, report and lay out a paper. Maybe they could make a newsletter that comes out twice a month, but not a weekly paper. If newspapers come out of this crisis we are in, how will it look if the papers we produce are crappy? It’s a weird cycle: make the paper and its staff smaller so that its less expensive so the paper doesn’t stop publishing, but then because it is so small and has less quality, it might go under anyway. Who wants to buy a paper that isn’t good?
I guess I’ll just wait out the next six months and see what happens. All I can say is it’s a scary time to be in this business. I love newspapers and reporting. But it’s hard to see a light at the end of the tunnel when people my age aren’t reading papers (or any news, according to that Pew report) and newspapers are slowly getting smaller and smaller/closing altogether.