More Cuts to the Virginian-Pilot

The newspaper meltdown proceeds apace in Virginia. Pilot Media, which owns the Virginian-Pilot and other print and online publications, is implementing employee buyouts and other cuts that will result in a reduction of “less than 10 percent” of the company’s 543-person workforce. So reports the Virginian-Pilot.

Publisher Pat Richardson said the Norfolk-based company remains profitable, but that revenues are shrinking faster than expenses. Digital revenues are increasing but not fast enough to offset declines in print revenue. “We’re going to continue to invest in content and in sales,” she said, as well as digital, in a restructuring that she describes as “rebalancing the organization.”

Other than mentioning cuts to in-house advertising design, the article does not say which departments will be affected. The company hopes to meet its targets through voluntary buyouts of employees with more than 25 years of service, of whom there are 70. Presumably, that means some of the staff reduction will hit the newsroom. With all due respect to the folks who print the newspaper and sell the ads, the newsroom is the heart and soul of the newspaper.

I acknowledge this is idle dreaming, but… Perhaps Google, Facebook and others who have figured out how to monetize newspaper content better than the newspapers themselves will devise a revenue-sharing scheme to help keep newspapers alive. After all, if newspapers go out of business, who will create the content for Google and Facebook to aggregate and monetize?

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10 responses to “More Cuts to the Virginian-Pilot”

  1. Once the newspapers are gone, I guess Google and Facebook can then aggregate and monetize fake news.

  2. LarrytheG Avatar

    re: ” … who will create the content for Google and Facebook to aggregate and monetize?”

    ummm… have you checked with Facebook lately about that “news” they’ve been publishing from paid sources?

    ah… there is no shortage of folks who create “news” and plenty of folks who will believe it especially if it appeals to their biases and conspiracy theories they believe.

    It’s not a new thing.. but it’s previously been the realm of well-funded advertising companies with big bucks to buy tv/radio media time…

    No shortage of deceptive or false advertising for products and services to people who were more than gullible and what it lead to was the understanding that it could be used in political issues too..

    the once the internet allowed anyone to create “content” – “news” is whatever folks want to consume and believe …

    and here’s a key insight from the press release:

    “I think the future is growing a large local audience for our journalism and it’ll be on multiple platforms,” she said of print and digital. “At the end of the day, it’s about local journalism.”

    so that’s where some State level news is going…

    I’d also mention – Warren Buffet whose BH Media has bought about 10-15 newspapers in Virginia.. and saved them from a worse fate.

    It’s unlike his other business ventures which are actually lucrative.

  3. LocalGovGuy Avatar

    I think we’re headed towards the end of democracy in this nation. Nope, I’m not overdramatic.

    I wonder how many people on this blog regularly converse with people under 40 who are not their own children. I hate to tell folks, but the decline of newspapers is about tech, but it’s also about a general lack of interest in what the Boomers considered “news.” If you talk to young people in this country across political/religious/ethnic lines, it’s quite clear that most really could not care less about public affairs.

    Look at the Times Dispatch. It’s comical how they’ve tried to turn the newspaper into a restaurant trade paper for the Richmond metro area. But, I have heard through the grapevine, that they’ve done that b/c there is just so little interest in public affairs from young people.

    Mr. Bacon constantly posts that “Boomergeddon” will “blow up” while no one’s paying attention….but what he and others don’t realize is that democracy in America is probably also going to “blow up” within 20 years…a system can’t sustain itself when no one has any interest in the system.

  4. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    A few points here.

    I I have been working for The Pilot or its owners off and on since 1973. I have been a full time journalist since 1974.

    First, the Pilot has already cut its staff in half, going from about 1,200 a decade ago to around 600 now..

    Most of the impacts from the cuts have already been felt. The current bad point is that its excellent design staff will end up with no work. To cut costs, management is farming out the design work.

    This downsizing of journalism has been going on since the late 1990s. One can complain about how tragic it all is (and I know personally), but do not forget that newspaper managements mismanaged the Internet back in the day. In the decades previous to the Net, many owners of newspapers were a rather greedy bunch. They netted about 25 percent or more in margins by ripping off their reporters, photographers, editors contact-makers, whomever. Small town TV owners were even more, paying nothing while raking in margins of 45 to 50 percent or more. Many of these outlets were monopolies. No one challenged them.

    The churn is hurting journalists and has for years. For a number of years, I worked for a big news magazine, got a great salary and benefits and got to fly around the world at least business class. Since I am vested, I still get a card every year that let’s me get into major metropolitan museums for free. Too bad those days are gone.But I still have my card and my pension.

    The trick is for affected journalists to come up with their own business models where they can make money and still provided a badly needed service.

  5. TooManyTaxes Avatar

    As a kid, I grew up reading the morning St. Paul Pioneer Press and afternoon Dispatch. I followed the Minnesota legislature and the St. Paul city council in grade school by reading the paper.

    When I moved to Omaha, I read the morning World Herald and then, in Des Moines, the Register. We subscribed to the Washington Post for years, until my wife said “It’s too expensive for it’s value, and I waste too much time reading.” That was about 10 years ago more or less. Done just fine without it.

    Newspapers used to deliver the news, not just the news that fits the Paper’s editorial views. When is the last time you read a series in the Post (or any other paper, for that matter) that questions the efficacy of government spending, illegal immigration, WMATA, smart growth or any other liberal tenet of faith?

    I’ll stick to my online sources and blogs like this, where we actually can read about different perspectives on a issue.

    1. Peter Galuszka Avatar
      Peter Galuszka

      The post does consistently fine work, contrary to your view. Even the times dispatch did well in a recent series on Dominion.
      Too many times on this blog, commenters pine for an earlier world that didn’t exist in the ways they present. I grew up with only three national news networks. Much of the work was mindless, rah-rah. Didn’t cbs cut Edward R. Murrow for the Beverly Hillbillies?

      1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

        I’ve worked with a number of Post reporters over the years. Most are/were top notch. But they do receive pressure from the Editorial Board on stories that contradict the latter’s views. A reporter, still working for the Paper, told me he/she received pressure not to write anything critical of then Governor Tim Kaine. Does that meet the standards of professional journalism? Hell, it violates the Post’s own written standards that the editorial board must remain separate from the news side.

        The Paper didn’t even put in an article on the 2008 study by UVA for VDOT that overweight trucks caused more than $210 million in annual damage to Virginia’s roads and bridges. Reported elsewhere including on BR. It was inconsistent with the editorial crusade to get higher gas taxes. The Post wouldn’t even accept an op-ed that discussed the UVA story. Yet both Delegates Tom Rust (R) and Mark Keam (D) took up the issue in the General Assembly. Does that meet standards? Why was the story spiked at the Post?

        I spent 2 1/2 hours over lunch being questioned by a WaPo news editor and 2 reporters on Tysons. I later asked why none of the negative points, mainly about increased traffic and needed public facilities, I raised were discussed in the following articles. Only the positive points. Pressure I was told. Yet, when I was interviewed about the same time by Time Magazine about the same subject, both my positive and negative comments (traffic and public facilities) were included. Gee was there a different standard applied?

        The Post editorial board beat up then Delegates Chap Petersen and Steve Shannon (both Democrats) for opposing Mark Warner’s tax increases. They were trying to get a better return for Fairfax County Schools by running the new and extra money outside the LCI formula. As turned out, the Delegates were right. The Senate Finance Committee staff projected a net cost to Fairfax County residents of about $107 million for the first year. Fairfax County Public Schools advised it got about $7 million in new revenue the first year. And shortly thereafter, BR reported that 49 Virginia localities were able to cut their tax support for public schools. Meanwhile Fairfax County class sizes rose and our real estate taxes went up.

        Despite a lot of good reporters, the Post’s management has the ethical standards of Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon.

        1. Steve Haner Avatar
          Steve Haner

          Darn reporters – whose paper do they think it is, anyway! The publisher owns it! How dare they dig up inconvenient facts and try to print stories that challenge the preconceptions of their publisher and editors! (I was once sent off with orders to do a story about how Salem had screwed up by splitting off to a separate school system, and came back with a story that it was a very good move for them. Horrors!)

          The golden age of journalism was bronze at best, and was probably morphing to tin by the time of my decade in the business (ending 1986). But there were so many more papers, larger news holes to fill, much larger reporting staff, and even small towns like Roanoke could have real competition, so readers did get a better if not perfect product. Buffet is a smart guy and is betting the model will survive at least a few more decades. I hope so. Sorry to see the Pilot squeeze again, but in all truth productivity is much higher. The 1950s hot type process I saw still in use in Petersburg in 1972 was horribly inefficient. Jeez, I used a ribbon typewriter and we still took printed copy from the wire machine to the back shop to be set by hand! 1972!

  6. LarrytheG Avatar

    I find the WSJ editorials very different philosophically from WaPo and the NYT and others.. but I also think it’s important to hear all of them in trying to form my own view.

    What I fear is gravitating to sources that conform to my own views.

    Facts are important. Facts are different from “editorials” or “beliefs” that you often see on free-lance blogs.. which invariably have a more narrow and often agenda-driven view – that should require going to other sources to hear their take.

    A lot of our problems these days are due to what people want to believe -no matter what the facts are.. and , yes, Democracy is threatened when we can’t differentiate between facts and views and beliefs.

    The truth comes from facts not someone”s view.

  7. Jim’s page here has done more for me in terms of local news than what I got in the VP. There is also more of an opportunity to input, which the VP doesn’t have. Sorry, but actually the garbage put on the VP’s pages has more to do with their downfall than anything else.

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