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When Newspapers Act Like Banks, Communities Suffer

Posted on Oct 24, 2011
Vincent Desjardins (CC-BY)

“Why not occupy newsrooms?” That’s the question posed by David Carr, writing in The New York Times about the obscene salaries and bonuses (tens of millions of dollars in some cases) paid to newspaper executives in compensation for “picking the carcass clean.”

Take two examples, starting with Gannett’s Craig A. Dubow, who took the stock price of the company, which owns USA Today and is America’s largest newspaper publisher, from $75 to $10 while firing 20,000 employees. Retiring with plaudits from the board, Dubow will have to make do with a meager sum—by Saudi royalty standards.

Mr. Dubow walked out the door with just under $37.1 million in retirement, health and disability benefits. That comes on top of a combined $16 million in salary and bonuses in the last two years.

Turn the page to the Tribune Company, which owns the Los Angeles Times and is America’s second-largest newspaper publisher. Tribune entered bankruptcy in 2008, a devastating blow for what remained of the company’s rank and file employees—the people who actually report and edit the news that goes into the newspaper. But Trib executives have little to fear, as Carr explains:

Over 4,000 people in the company lost their jobs, and the journalistic missions of formerly robust newspapers it operates — including The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune and The Baltimore Sun — have been curtailed. And even though Randy Michaels and some of his corporate fraternity brothers who operated the company into bankruptcy are gone, more than 600 managers who were there while the company cratered remain.

Not only do they have jobs while so many others were sent packing, but the remaining leadership will be eligible for a bonus pool from $26.4 million to $32.4 million under the current plan.

This isn’t just about those poor ink-stained wretches. Newspapers are community service organizations. The corporate carcass pickers are leaving behind communities that lack for trustworthy reporting, political oversight and the kind of in-depth local coverage that bare-bones newsrooms and CNN aren’t going to provide. 

—Peter Z Scheer

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By Sean2009, October 26, 2011 at 9:09 am Link to this comment

How do mainstream newspapers, which are part of the propaganda arm of the capitalist system, benefit communities? The sooner their vampire CEOs drain them of every last drop of blood the better. The “journalists” who work for these rags could use a healthy dose of the capitalism they shill for.

We should help them along by refusing to read them, not mourn their impending doom.

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By felicity, October 25, 2011 at 8:33 am Link to this comment

What’s happening in the news business is merely an
indication that capitalism has finally arrived in the
media rooms of America - capitalism is, after all,
nothing but creative destruction.

A fetid example of what’s become important in running
a news bureau and what’s become unimportant:  Early
on in the Iraq War, CBS News was spending $7
million/year to run its entire Baghdad bureau while
it was enriching its CEO paying him, alone, $40
million/year. (Obviously, CBS News doesn’t get that
it’s a “community service organization.”)

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By EmileZ, October 25, 2011 at 2:08 am Link to this comment

Now now… we all know that it is really all the internet’s fault. It just couldn’t be helped.

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By Lafayette, October 24, 2011 at 10:22 pm Link to this comment


What is happening in the News Industry is typical of the same elsewhere. On the Board of many companies are some very selfish people ready to protect their Precious Asses against misfortune - that they are often responsible for making.

Why should these people have “company reserves” to pillage whilst the rest of their labor force are forced onto the Public Dole? Easy answer: Because they can.

No law prevents them from doing otherwise. In some European countries, laws have been passed that give the rank and file the right to representation on the Board of a public company. By which, at least, they have some oversight and say of operational decision-making.

But, not in Free Market America. Behind closed doors, the Plutocrats make sure they take care of their own.

Labor Laws protecting those legally contracted to work are virtually non-existent. One can be put out the door for no reason whatsoever, even a whimsy, by a management directive. Why?

Because it is “custom”, that’s it, no more than custom. For some unexplainable reason, management has a right to whatever profits may be left over after a company has tanked. And those who worked diligently further down the corporate ladder have the right to a handshake and (maybe) a good-bye party. Why?

Because the Board has full discretionary power and the peones below no right to question it. No law frames the rights of a company’s workforce, especially if no union is involved, in the face of Top Management Golden Parachute bail-outs.

If Top-Management gets a 10/20/30 million dollar golden parachute, its because their cronies on the Board decided that was right and proper. And their cronies on the Board expect the same favor in return when their times come.

The one percent or ten percent - however you want to cut the Plutocrat Pie that binds them together - have only one concern in mind. “My Golden Parachute”, which they figure is their right to take with them when they bail out.

All that bullshit you were given about “Our people are our most important asset”? Now you know, it was just that - Plutocrat Bullshit.

These immoral bastards are pillaging American industry across the land - and no law exists to stop them. But there is a SuperPAC somewhere to which they can donate to make sure that no law is passed to change their privilege - just ask the Koch Brothers.


There ought to have been a law that protected the rights of workers to participate in decisions at the Top that affect their lives. And if various Democrat governments over the past two decades did nothing to pass such a law it is because they did not have the Politically Progressive Will to do so.


Union membership has been in long-term decline across the nation for decades. See the blue-line here.

So now when you need them, where are they? And whose fault is it if they’re not there to defend your rights? Top Management ... or yours?

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By mrfreeze, October 24, 2011 at 8:07 pm Link to this comment

gerard - goddamn, you couldn’t have said that better. You know, over the last couple of years I’ve had a serious, dark sinking feeling that all the institutions worthy of our country and civilization are evaporating..Poof….destroyed by “the free market” or, worse yet, an intense, uber-stupidity that has somehow overtaken us. I’m in a gloomy mood tonight.

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By gerard, October 24, 2011 at 5:17 pm Link to this comment

Quote from the article to think about:  “The corporate carcass pickers are leaving behind communities that lack for trustworthy reporting, political oversight and the kind of in-depth local coverage that bare-bones newsrooms and CNN aren’t going to provide.”
  And on top of that, take down the Internet, destroy WikiLeaks, criminalize Julian Assange and Bradley Manning and anyone else interested in the truth of what goes on and what to do about it.
  Issue compulsory “happy” publicity releases from corporation board rooms and all government offices as “news”, sit out on your balcony and drink cocktails and watch the rest of the world die. Call it “American Exceptionalism” or “Morning in America” and you’ve got it made.
  Sugar with your tea, ma’am?

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