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Friday, March 27, 2009

Black Friday in Newspaperville

Posted By on Fri, Mar 27, 2009 at 7:01 PM

Exhibit A -- the big boys:

For staffers at The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal, this week can’t end soon enough.

On Monday, news broke that The Wall Street Journal was losing two top investigative reporters. On Tuesday, President Barack Obama snubbed reporters from the big dailies at his primetime press conference. On Wednesday, Washington Post Co. Chairman Donald Graham signaled to shareholders that 2009 would be worse than the previous year.

On Thursday, the Times and the Post announced broad cost-cutting measures and plans for reductions in staff. And Friday will bring the final print edition of the Christian Science Monitor.

The Times handed out pink slips Thursday morning to about 100 staffers on the paper’s business side.

For those Times staffers who didn’t get the ax, there was still unpleasant news in memo form: a 5 percent pay cut beginning in April. The consolation: Staffers will now receive an additional 10 days off annually.

Exhibit B -- the alt-weeklies:

A memo from Bruce Bolkin, president of Southland Publishing, which pulled the plug on its publication L.A. CityBeat rather abruptly this morning:

It is with great regret that as of the March 26, 2009 issue, Southland Publishing, Inc. has decided to discontinue publishing the Los Angeles CityBeat alternative weekly publication.

For 6 years, the Los Angeles CityBeat has offered a fresh perspective to the readers of Los Angeles, and Southland is extremely proud of its writers and entire staff who have contributed to the paper.

Exhibit C -- even fictional characters are not safe:

The newspaper business is tough all over. Things are so bad that even comic strip heroine Brenda Starr -- that feisty gal reporter -- will be put on furlough this week.

In a strip that runs Saturday, Starr's cigar-chomping boss, B. Babbitt Bottomline, calls Starr into his office and declares, "I can't afford to pay you anymore." The budget cuts inside Starr's fictional newsroom reflect the bottom line at real-life newspapers, which are slashing staffs and freezing salaries in the face of steep declines in advertising and circulation.

Excuse me. I'll just be in the Gambit restroom, hanging myself.

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