One of the worst things about working for The Sinking Ship That Is McClatchy has to be reporting on your own setbacks. (And we should note that our friends over at McClatchy Watch cover this way better than we ever could.) Sadly, the job of reporting today’s furlough news fell to reporter Dan Margolies, who had to do a written Bataan Death March and pen the story of his own involuntary break.
Besides the furloughs, the newspaper will also offer voluntary buyouts to most of its regular full-time workers, Zieman told employees in a memo. He said no target had been set, “but we expect it to be considerably less than the last round of involuntary cuts.” Zieman also said that The Star’s parent company, Sacramento, Calif.-based McClatchy Co., is extending the current wage freeze for all employees through December.
But wait, what’s this?
McClatchy, which owns 30 daily newspapers, last month more than doubled its second-quarter earnings, from $19.7 million in 2008 to $42.2 million, largely owing to extensive cost cutting.
Cut all the expenses you want, McClatchy, but that’s not a path to profitability. Listen to Murdoch’s words last week on News Corp.’s payment scheme: Quality journalism is not cheap, and an industry that gives away its content is simply cannibalizing its ability to produce good reporting. The digital revolution has opened many new and inexpensive distribution channels but it has not made content free. We intend to charge for all our news Web sites.
The Star and other publications need to realize they can’t continue to cut the people who write the news while giving away the news for free. How much did I pay to use the excerpt above? Zero. Information doesn’t want to be free, as Gladwell recently noted — the people who make money off information want it to be free. Furloughs are newspapers’ bridges to nowhere.