Brian Fuller's blog on the media, marketing and content creation

The Morning Meat Grinder

Posted on | December 11, 2008 | No Comments

It’s a low-watermark week for American media. A sampling of snippets from the crime blotter:

  • NPR is cutting 65 people. McDonald’s heiress Joan Kroc just gave them $230 million a little while ago. Poof! I heard about the cuts on NPR on the drive in today, which was small consolation: They’re still alive.
  • The Tribune Co. filed Chapter 11 this week. Sam Zell’s debt-driven acquisition looked bad last year in a decent economy; it looks just plain stupid now.
  • Reed Elsevier dropped plans to sell its B:B Reed Business Information unit. It couldn’t get the price it wanted. Surprise. It needed the money to pay down debt it occurred in an earlier acquisition.
  • The wheels continue to spin off the Newsweek bus. The magazine is considering slashing circulation (by as much as half), make other possible changes and go up against The Economist. Good luck with that. You can’t recover from dumbing-down your content over the past 20 years and going all pop culture on us. There are four newsweeklies in the world: Time, Newsweek, The Economist and U.S. News and World Report. Who here thinks that’s just the right amount of newsweeklies?

As has been said before, all recessions are forcing mechanisms. This one will kill B:B print in most sectors and right-size newsweeklies and big-city dailies, which have been slow to catch on until now. All will not be sweetness and light online either. It’s not a one-to-one replacement of our information habit.
John Gapper wrote an insightful piece in the FT today that lays out certain consequences:

The question for national and international reporting is not whether city papers survive but whether news organisations such as The New York Times do. Clearly, if they did not, and blogs were left alone to provide coverage of Washington and Iraq, there would be a problem.

Yes. A big problem. Twenty or 30 years ago, the Chicago Tribune might have broken the Gov. Rod Blagojevich story. Today, they and other news outlets across the country are fighting so hard to survive, they just don’t have the resources to keep an eye on government the way we need them to.

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