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Consolidation Costs Jobs and Stifles Innovation

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Bernie Lunzer

The point of most consolidations is efficiency — and that means fewer journalists, less content and less diversity in both content and staff.

Since roughly 2006 there has been a bloodletting in most American newsrooms. Anecdotal evidence suggests that most newsrooms have been cut by roughly 40 percent. Many are smaller than half the size they were in 2000. There are fewer women and minority journalists, despite the relaxation of several seniority provisions. The scarcity of coverage of minority communities remains an issue; many managers remain committed to these values – they just don’t have the resources.

Unfortunately the prevailing myth is that consolidation is necessary because of tough economics, and that somehow it will save mastheads and jobs. But cities such as Tampa and Chicago, which already have joint ownership because of historic agreements, have not managed to hold onto jobs. In Chicago, where there’s always been a lot of sharing between broadcast and print, The Chicago Tribune newsroom has had at least 12 rounds of layoffs within the last few years. Repurposing stories for use in other mediums arguably has allowed the Tribune to do more with less, actually reducing coverage. In Tampa, Media General just sold the Tampa Tribune and kept broadcast. It’s too early to know the effects.

The Newspaper Guild-CWA remains concerned about further consolidation. It’s likely to stifle innovation, which is what’s most needed. We’re also concerned that reporting on Citizens United’s effect on the election will not happen as print publications choose not to offend possible suitors in broadcast, who are making huge profits from the decision.


Bernie Lunzer is president of The Newspaper Guild, CWA. The Newspaper Guild-CWA represents 26,000 print and broadcast workers in the U.S., Puerto Rico and Canada.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=51808534 Tony Powell

    The root of this (and so many other similar issues today) is simple: profit above all else. The corporations have become beasts that must be fed greater and greater amounts of money to remain in business. But the bigger the beast, the more feed it requires, thus — profits above all else. The news business is only one of many enterprises that suffers (instead of thrives) under the corporate system. Investors demand ever-greater profits (and who can blame them, that’s the nature of it), and yet news isn’t inherently “innovation-ready” as technology is, for instance. Methods of delivering the news can be improved, enhanced, etc., but news itself? What’s “new and improved” news? So how to sell more of it? How to further fatten the shareholders’ wallets every quarter? Cut costs — jobs, primarily. Only when these beasts have eaten every ounce of worth out of themselves will the tide turn. In the meantime, I suggest joining them. Ya’ can’t beat them.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ron.nolan2 Ron Nolan

    Corporations own the media. Not surprising to me that they would cut “overhead” and benefit from a dumbed down populace at the same time. Win-win for them….