Monday, December 21, 2009

MediaNews memo to staff

TO: MNG/MNGi Employees
FROM: Dean Singleton and Jody Lodovic
SUBJECT: 2009 is almost gone. Thanks for getting us through it!

First and foremost, let us thank you for your hard work and dedication during this difficult economic period, a time particularly hard for the newspaper industry. You have been asked to do more with less, and we truly appreciate your efforts and sacrifices.

While the past three years have been particularly challenging (especially 2009) for MediaNews Group and the newspaper industry, we are proud of your performance and many accomplishments, and we are confident that our strategies will lead us and the industry into a bright future. Let us highlight just a few of your/our accomplishments during this challenging period:
  • Advertising - While advertising revenue has been severely challenged, your performance has been near the top of the industry throughout 2009. For the three-month period ended September, for example, your advertising revenue declined 24% as compared to the industry decline of 28.2%. This performance was consistent with the first two quarters. Furthermore, in markets such as St. Paul, the Bay Area, and Los Angeles, we significantly outperformed other newspapers in the regions.

We have made significant progress in transforming our sales organization and have invested in new tools, such as iShare, training and laptops, to position us to meet the ever changing needs of our advertisers. Your success has been noted and is appreciated.

  • Circulation - Your circulation performance is second to none. In the September ABC 6-month report, MediaNews Group had circulation growth even as the industry lost 10.6%. That increase included The Denver Post growth which came after the demise of its primary competitor, The Rocky Mountain News. However, not including Denver, the company's loss was 4.8%, still the best performance in the industry by far. This performance moved the company from number 4 to number 2, as measured by circulation.

  • News - Our circulation performance would be impossible if not for the excellent news products each of your newspapers produce. There is not enough space here to comment on all the awards your newsrooms have won this year. While we, like others, have had no choice but to trim news staffs, we have tried to consolidate infrastructure to preserve reporting staff when possible. And with hard work and creativity, your newsrooms have re-invented themselves and continue to do excellent journalism. We are so proud of our outstanding editors and their dedicated staffs. And speaking of creativity, we are awed by the outstanding work you are doing online. As our traffic continues to soar, our audiences between print and online have never been larger.
  • Operations - The year has brought major plant consolidation for many of our newspapers. Added to creative circulation and route consolidation and new ways of doing production, you have achieved efficiencies we never would have dreamed possible while improving the service you provide.
  • Denver - We completed a significant restructuring in Denver after the closing of the Rocky Mountain News. While we were sad to see the Rocky go, we are excited about our future in Denver. The performance of the Denver Post during this transition has been nothing short of remarkable as we held most of the Rocky unduplicated circulation and operating performance continues to improve each month.

  • Internet Strategy - A group from your newspapers met offsite last April to chart our digital course for the future. Since that time, several task forces have been working to put more meat on the bones. We are now in position to start implementing the strategies we developed. Step one is to install a new content management system that will serve as the foundation for our strategies. Upon completion, we will begin building new and websites in each of our markets. Our largest markets should be up and running by mid-2010. In addition, we are working to implement strategies to protect and monetize our content. New pay models will begin testing in some markets early next year.
  • Mobile - Mobile (and other portable reading devices) represents a significant opportunity for us. Accordingly, we have engaged outside mobile expertise to help us develop our mobile strategies. We have completed phase 1 of the process and hope to have a fully mapped out mobile strategy early in 2010.
MediaNews Group is committed to making the necessary investments to implement its strategies. However, these investments must be made prudently and cautiously given the challenges we face to improve our balance sheet. As always, we must balance the need to move quickly with resources and capital available.

MediaNews, like many other newspaper companies, entered the current downturn with a reasonable level of debt based on historical measures. However, the current newspaper industry environment bears no resemblance to any previous newspaper downturn, and the magnitude of the structural and cyclical decline was simply unimaginable just a few years ago. Consequently, we, along with much of the industry, have more debt than is comfortable.

We have been working closely with our banks to restructure our debt and position MediaNews Group to execute its strategies and lead our newspapers into a positive future. Yes, we believe newspapers have a bright future! We are near agreement on the terms of a restructuring plan which we expect will be completed toward the end of the first quarter of 2010. Upon completion, MediaNews expects to have a manageable level of debt, and we look forward to working with each of you to take your newspapers into a changing but exciting future.

As we near the end of 2009, you may have questions regarding annual reviews, 401(k) contributions, health care benefits, and future furloughs, etc. While it is our hope and desire to reinstate Company-wide salary reviews and 401(k) contributions as soon as possible and avoid future furloughs, it is premature to make those decisions. The Company must see clear evidence of improving economic conditions before such decisions are made. We will keep all options open, including reinstatement on a phased approach. As you can imagine, these are not easy decisions. Our highest priority is positioning MediaNews Group for a bright future and preserving/protecting its most valuable asset ­— its employees. We will let you know as soon as those decisions are made.

Let us say again how much we appreciate your efforts. Your contributions are vital to the future success of MediaNews Group and the newspapers it publishes. We're probably biased, but we believe you all comprise the best newspaper team in the business. We're proud to work with you. Let us wish you and your family happy and healthy holidays and a happy new year!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Ruth Seymour's letter to KCRW members

November 2009

Dear KCRW Supporter,

After 32 years of leading KCRW, I am writing to let you know that I will be retiring as KCRW’s General Manager at the end of February.

What a long and exciting journey it’s been. I’ve had the opportunity to head a station that was once considered one of the most underdeveloped in the country. When you’re that poor and weak, there’s no place to go but up or out.

KCRW went up.

It became a leader and a trendsetter. Today the audience for the unique programs the station originates has spread to listeners across the country, and indeed, across the world.

I am grateful for the opportunity to have overseen the transformation of KCRW from a worn-out facility in a middle school playground into the internet powerhouse that it has become.

No one builds a KCRW alone. When you’re so taken up with the here and now, you don’t really spend a great deal of time reflecting on the past. Therefore, I’ve asked my longtime colleague Will Lewis, who has been an invaluable companion on this radio adventure, to document the years we’ve spent shaping and growing the station. His overview is included with my letter.

I want to thank our licensee, Santa Monica College, which allowed us the freedom to experiment and cheered us on. I have served under four Presidents and countless College Boards, and throughout they have been steadfast in their support and encouragement. That is no small thing and I wish every public station as exemplary a licensee as KCRW enjoys.

The KCRW Foundation was created in 1980 to safeguard the station in a precarious time. Over the years it has allowed us to undertake some of our most ambitious programs, to expand our facilities and to enter the internet age. The KCRW you know would not exist without the support of the KCRW Foundation.

Many public stations of our size and importance have long since given up using volunteers. We cherish ours. They bring the world into our basement studios. They come from all walks of life; they range from young students to seniors. They’re excited by coming down to the station and answering phones, taking pledges, working in the music library, assisting the deejays. Each year they save the station hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Over the years we discovered and attracted an impressive number of gifted individuals who poured their passion for music, the arts and political drama into dynamic and original radio. They made our reputation.

They were supported by a loyal and devoted staff, committed and inspired by the ideas and the ideals that characterize KCRW.

The media world is now in the process of dynamic change. KCRW is at the forefront, experimenting with the technical advances that are changing the ways in which we communicate.

I am confident that the station will welcome new opportunities as they arise, ever mindful that it’s still all about the programming.

I will leave a station that is strong in its identity, a station that is like no other in the country. The words I like to use to describe KCRW (you’ve seen them in my countless fundraising letters over the years) are singular, idiosyncratic, daring, independent, smart and compelling.

I believe that’s why you value the station, why we’ve been able to forge a remarkable bond with you, one of trust and affection. You have made it possible for us to become the station we are today.

You will make it possible for KCRW to continue to flourish.

It’s been an extraordinary privilege to serve as KCRW’s General Manager -- a joy and a source of great pride. That’s a pretty good note on which to say goodbye.


Ruth Seymour

Monday, November 16, 2009

Memo from Randy Michaels and Gerry Spector

This afternoon, we filed two motions with the court overseeing our Chapter 11 bankruptcy; these motions give us a good opportunity to update you on the restructuring process.

One motion asks the court to extend the period of exclusivity for filing our restructuring plan to March 31, 2010. In plain English, this motion seeks to extend the time during which only we can file a plan. The current period of exclusivity expires at the end of this month.

As the motion states, we have made “substantial progress toward filing a plan of reorganization… ”. Our goal is to deliver a plan that our creditors can support and to do so as quickly as possible. We continue active discussions with our creditors in this regard. The other motion filed asks the court to hold a status conference on certain matters related to accomplishing this goal.

The exclusivity motion makes it clear that we’ve accomplished a lot as a company. With your help, we have stabilized and repositioned our businesses, exceeding the financial results of most of our newspaper and broadcasting peers. This year we project operating cash flow of approximately $400 million—nearly double our original operating plan.

Last week here in Chicago, we met with the leaders of all of our business units and their top sales executives to share ideas and best practices as we head into the last two months of 2009. It was a very productive meeting. There is some incredibly innovative work being done on the sales side, but we can’t let up—we have to keep pushing, keep working together across all of our properties and markets, and keep looking for new solutions for our advertisers.

Today’s motions will generate some media attention. Try to tune out the noise and focus on your job. The fourth quarter is traditionally the strongest one of the year and, with your continued hard work, we're sure this year will be no different.

Randy and Gerry

Monday, October 19, 2009

Memo from Bill Keller


I had planned to invite you to the newsroom and break this news in person Monday, but I've been hit by something that seems to be the flu. Though I strongly believe in delivering bad news in person, I don't want to add insult to injury by spreading infection.

Let me cut to the chase: We have been told to cut 100 newsroom positions between now and the end of the year.

We hope to accomplish this by offering voluntary buyouts. On Thursday the company will be sending buyout offers to everyone in the newsroom. Getting a buyout package does NOT mean we want you to leave. It is simply easier to send the envelopes to everyone. If you think a buyout may be right for you, you have 45 days to respond, and then we have ten days to accept or decline.

As before, if we do not reach 100 positions through buyouts, we will be forced to go to layoffs. I hope that won't happen, but it might.

Our colleagues in editorial and op-ed, and on the business side, also face another round of budget cuts.

In recent years, we've managed to avoid the disabling cutbacks that have hit other newsrooms. The company has chosen to protect the journalism by cutting production and other business-side costs, and the newsroom itself has managed its resources frugally. These latest cuts will still leave us with the largest, strongest and most ambitious editorial staff of any newsroom in the country, if not the world.

I won't pretend that these staff cuts will not in some ways diminish our journalism, or that they will not add to the burdens of journalists whose responsibilities have grown faster than their compensation. But we've been looking hard at ways to minimize the impact -- in part, by re-engineering some of our copy flow. I won't promise this will be easy or painless, but I believe we can weather these cuts without seriously compromising our commitment to coverage of the region, the country and the world. We will remain the single best news organization on earth.

I doubt that anyone is shocked by the fact of this, but it is happening sooner than anyone anticipated. When we took our 5 percent pay cuts, it was in the hope that this would fend off the need for more staff cuts this year. But I accept that if it's going to happen, it should be done quickly. We will get through this and move on.

In my absence, Bill Schmidt and John and Jill have volunteered to take your questions this afternoon. Feel free to bring additional questions to me as soon as I'm back, or check with Bill Schmidt or John or Jill privately, or save them for the next Throw Stuff at Bill session, which is in a couple of weeks.

We often -- and rightly -- voice our gratitude that we work for a company and a family that prize quality journalism above all. I hope you know that the company and the family, and I, feel an equal debt of gratitude to all of you whose sacrifice and loyalty have kept us strong.

Like you, I yearn for the day when we can do our jobs without looking over our shoulders for economic thunderstorms.


Monday, September 28, 2009

Los Angeles Times press release

Following the well-received launch of its redesigned site, the Los Angeles Times today announced Sean Gallagher as Managing Editor, Online. In his new role Gallagher will be responsible for the overall reader experience on and on the Los Angeles Times Media Group’s growing portfolio of digital properties.

“Sean’s talent, integrity and command of virtually every facet of online publishing have been crucial to’s success,” said Times Editor Russ Stanton. “He will provide valuable leadership as we continue to evolve and has already played a key role in helping shape our round-the-clock, fully-integrated newsroom."

Gallagher is charged with working across The Times newsroom and masthead, and in tandem with Managing Editor, Print Jon Thurber, to ensure a consistent and complementary multimedia experience and continued integration of print and Web efforts. In addition, he will continue to manage and implement the daily news and features online that have made one of the fastest-growing newspaper sites.

Gallagher joined in 2006 as an associate editor, coordinating the news report and overseeing the expansion of the Health and Business sections’ online offerings. He was appointed the site’s managing editor in 2007, was a key contributor to important innovation initiatives and oversaw the recent redesign that has won much acclaim from readers and industry analysts. Gallagher was previously web director of the San Diego Daily Transcript and spent more than five years at He also has worked at the Village Voice as a researcher and at Scholastic Books as a production editor and is a graduate of Fordham University.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Memo from Eddy Hartenstein

From: Hartenstein, Eddy
Sent: Thursday, September 17, 2009 11:06 AM
Subject: Editorial Pages Announcement

I am pleased to announce the following changes in management responsibilities of our editorial pages.

Jim Newton, who has served as editor of the editorial pages for more than two years, is stepping down in order to finish up his biography of Dwight Eisenhower. Nick Goldberg, who has ably served as the section’s deputy editor, will now become editor, overseeing the editorial board, as well as Op-Ed, Sunday Opinion, letters and our opinion coverage online. He will assume his new responsibilities on Monday, Sept. 28 and report to me.

Starting next week, Jim will scale back his duties. He will relinquish his management of Opinion but remain part of it, becoming editor-at-large, a new masthead position. In that capacity, he will advise on editorial matters, remain a member of the editorial board and will keep writing and editing for the editorial pages, both as an editorial writer and an Op-Ed contributor.

You all know Nick and Jim, so I'll be brief in recapping their credentials. Nick came to The Times in 2003 as Op-Ed editor and later expanded his duties to include Sunday Opinion as well. Last year, he was named deputy editor helping Jim to oversee the department. Before coming to The Times, Nick, a graduate of Harvard, spent many years at Newsday, where he covered the New York statehouse and the 1992 presidential campaign of Bill Clinton, among other assignments. He served as Middle East correspondent from 1995 to 1998. His work has been widely published in America's leading magazines.

Jim next week marks his 20th year at The Times, and over those decades has served as a reporter, bureau chief and editor, writing and shaping coverage from the Mission Viejo City Council to the LAPD to the administration of Mayor Riordan to the statehouse in Sacramento (and writing more than 900 A1 stories along the way). A Dartmouth alumnus, Jim began his career as clerk to James Reston, senior columnist for the New York Times. He also is the author of "Justice for All: Earl Warren and the Nation He Made."

Since 2007, Jim has set high standards, and has achieved them with the daily and vital assistance of Nick. Our Opinion section reflects their collaboration, which continues now in this new alignment. This transition is a model, as is their work.

Our editorial pages present Los Angeles and California with provocative, thoughtful, literate and conscientious journalism. We publish a bracing range of views in Op-Ed - thanks there to Sue Horton and her colleagues - and supply leadership through our editorials. The result: We are an indispensible voice in the life of California.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Tribune press release on agreement to sell Cubs

August 21, 2009—The Ricketts family has signed a definitive agreement with Tribune Company to acquire a 95 percent interest in the Chicago Cubs National League Baseball Club, Wrigley Field and Tribune’s approximately 25 percent interest in Comcast SportsNet (CSN) in a transaction valued at $845 million. The Ricketts family will have management control of the joint venture as its 95 percent owner. Tribune will retain a five-percent ownership interest.

“Our family is thrilled to have reached an agreement to acquire a controlling interest in the Chicago Cubs, one of the most storied franchises in sports,” said Joe Ricketts. “The Cubs have the greatest fans in the world, and we count our family among them. We look forward to closing the transaction so that we can begin leading the Cubs to a World Series title.”

The Ricketts family reached the agreement with Tribune after a thorough bid process that began more than two years ago. Tribune intends to proceed to a final transaction close without soliciting further bids from other parties.

“This joint venture will provide dedicated, local family ownership and management for the team,” commented Tribune Chairman Sam Zell. “The Ricketts family will be a great steward of the franchise. They have a strong respect for the team, for the fans and for what the Cubs mean to the City of Chicago.”

Final closing of the agreement is dependent upon approval by Major League Baseball owner and bankruptcy court approvals. As part of the court's approval process, the entity holding most of the assets of the Cubs franchise will voluntarily file for Chapter 11 protection so that the franchise can emerge free and clear of Tribune Company’s financial obligations. All obligations specific to the Cubs franchise - player contracts and agreements with sponsors, broadcasters, advertisers, suppliers and ticket holders - are not expected to be impacted by the court approval process, and there should be no interruption of team operations. The court is expected to rule on approval of the transaction early in the fourth quarter of 2009.

TRIBUNE is America’s largest employee-owned media company, operating businesses in publishing, interactive and broadcasting. In publishing, Tribune’s leading daily newspapers include the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Baltimore Sun, Sun Sentinel (South Florida), Orlando Sentinel, Hartford Courant, Morning Call and Daily Press. The company’s broadcasting group operates 23 television stations, WGN America on national cable, Chicago’s WGN-AM and the Chicago Cubs baseball team. Popular news and information websites complement Tribune’s print and broadcast properties and extend the company’s nationwide audience. At Tribune we take what we do seriously and with a great deal of pride. We also value the creative spirit and nurture a corporate culture that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Declaration of Independence

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Memo from Kevin Keane


I had always held out hope that business would bounce back quickly enough that we would be able to avoid further staff reductions this fiscal year. Unfortunately whatever rebound there is in this economy hasn't reached the advertising market yet. We project revenues will continue their skid well into next year, which means expenses will need to come down accordingly.

Today we're announcing that we will be eliminating 18 full-time positions in the newsroom (managers and rank and file employees) by mid summer. We will notify the union today as well. Employees let go will receive a week's salary for each year worked, with a minimum of two weeks and a maximum of 12. The company will also pay the employer portion of Cobra benefits for health care for three months.

It goes without saying that this deep a cut on top of previous reductions will have a lasting impact on our newspapers and Web sites. Our preference would be to hold staffing at its current level until the revenue bottomed out, but we can't delay if we're to get through this downturn.

Before we finalize these cuts, however, we're asking for volunteers to step forward. These volunteers will receive an additional severance of up to eight weeks salary on top of the severance mentioned above - one week's pay for each year worked, up to eight years. Under the volunteer program, a 12-year employee would receive the maximum 20-week severance.

Management reserves the right to accept or reject a voluntary offer, depending on how vital a position is to the news organization. Every accepted offer brings down the involuntary layoff number by one. If we accept 18 volunteers, we'll eliminate the need for the layoff altogether. Anyone interested in the voluntary program should contact Belinda Byrd in HR by Wednesday, July 8 at 5 p.m.

Any questions, feel free to drop me a line.


Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Memo from LANG

July 1, 2009

In April we announced that LANG would be suspending the accrual of vacation benefits. This measure was taken in an effort to further reduce our operating expenses. That announcement stated that the vacation accrual suspension would be in effect until July 4, 2009.

While we have made progress, we continue to realize a decline in revenue. Subsequently, it has become necessary for us to extend the suspension of vacation benefits accrual through September 26, 2009 (the first quarter of the 2010 fiscal year), at which time we will re-evaluate our situation. In addition to this extension, we are requiring all employees to do one of the following: take five days of paid vacation by September 26, OR take five days of unpaid furlough by September 26. Below is a breakdown of what this means to most of you:
  • For those with 40 or more hours in their vacation bank, simply take a week of vacation. Because we are heading into the summer months when most people utilize their vacation time, this option should prove to have little or no impact on the majority of employees.

  • For those with less than 40 hours in their vacation bank, you can do a combination of both options. An example for a full-time employee who works 40 hours per week; you have 24 hours accrued vacation, you can use your three vacation days PLUS take two unpaid furlough days to equal the total five-day requirement.

  • For those with little or no vacation hours in their vacation bank, you will need to take unpaid furlough equaling five days. Non-exempt employees have the option of spreading their furlough days over several pay periods or they may take all of the time off within a one-week period. It is up to you, but the time must be taken by September 26.

  • Exempt employees who do not have the equivalent of five days’ vacation in their vacation bank do not have the option of combining vacation with furlough. If you are exempt, and do not have at least one week of vacation, you must take a week of furlough. Your week of furlough must be taken at one time (all within the same week), and you cannot perform any work during that week. This requirement may not apply to some sales positions, so if you are in advertising sales, please see your manager for guidance.
  • We regret the need to implement these changes in order to meet our financial challenges. It is our belief that this is the least painful way to work towards regaining our financial footing, while allowing us to mitigate mandated furloughs for most employees or, far worse, reducing staffing levels (layoffs).

    If you have questions or need to further discuss how this pertains to you specifically, please see your manager, department head, or human resources department.

    Thank you for your understanding. Your hard work and dedication have been instrumental in weathering this economic storm.

    Memo from Bob Dickey

    To: U.S. Community Publishing Employees
    From: Bob Dickey

    I want to talk with you about our restructuring efforts, as we continue to battle these difficult economic conditions and the impact on our advertisers. With your help, our various cost savings initiatives are making a difference.

    Nevertheless, we will need to implement job reductions to align our resources with the revenue realities we face. Currently each location is finalizing its plan, taking into consideration the local economy, results so far this year and the prospects going forward.

    Each plan is different and designed to address the ongoing local needs. All of them, however, involved extremely difficult decisions. Approximately 1400 employees will be impacted by the job reductions across the division. Your publisher or general manager will communicate the local plans, and we expect the vast majority of the reductions will take place by July 9. In a select few cases, the implementation may take longer. There will not be any furloughs for the rest of the year.

    I want to stress that the job reductions are not a reflection on these employees or their work. We truly value their many contributions and thank them for their efforts over the years.

    Unfortunately, we must take these steps because the advertising environment remains challenged. There have been some promising signs of a recovery, but the reality is the improvements are not broad-based and the economy continues to be fragile.

    Even so, we know the economy will improve. To be ready, we need to continue our transformation and maintain a strong financial position. We must publish our newspapers, produce our Web sites and pay down our debt. By taking all these steps today, we will be stronger tomorrow.

    Measured against our peers in the media industry, we are healthy and capable of moving forward. We are in this position because we have proactively responded to the financial conditions with actions such as these.

    We continue to see good ideas coming from all of you, and we are becoming more innovative everyday. This combination of forward thinking and good fiscal management will, I believe, ultimately result in a return to success for our company.

    So, please keep those thoughts and ideas coming. As always, you can email me or call with your comments.

    Monday, June 29, 2009

    The new news dialectic

    In this age of well-trafficked digital social networks, two distinct types of news have emerged: the verified and the unverified.

    Verified news is what traditionally has been printed on the pages of our newspapers and news websites and broadcast on the nightly news - fact-checked, reported impartially, presented in a coherent and contextualized manner, conveyed as a story of importance to broad segments of society.

    Unverified news is what gets printed or broadcast on a variety of online and cellular networks and that also provides context and deals with issues of importance to broad segments of society.

    Recently, and most notably with coverage of protests in Iran, the verified and unverified have been fused together on the websites and broadcasts of news organizations that would never have run the latter in the past.

    From the New York Times:
    “Check the source” may be the first rule of journalism. But in the coverage of the protests in Iran this month, some news organizations have adopted a different stance: publish first, ask questions later.

    If you still don’t know the answer, ask your readers. CNN showed scores of videos submitted by Iranians, most of them presumably from protesters who took to the streets to oppose Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s re-election on June 12. The Web sites of The New York Times, The Huffington Post, The Guardian newspaper in London and others published minute-by-minute blogs with a mix of unverified videos, anonymous Twitter messages and traditional accounts from Tehran. ...

    Many mainstream media sources, which have in the past been critical of the undifferentiated sources of information on the Web, had little choice but to throw open their doors in this case. As the protests against Mr. Ahmadinejad grew, the government sharply curtailed the foreign press. As visas expired, many journalists packed up, and the ones who stayed were barred from reporting on the streets.
    The writer is partly wrong here: News organizations had a great big choice. Pretending the situation was nearly automatic is a cop out.

    That doesn't mean that the news organizations made the wrong decision. Indeed, responsible news organizations can act as a useful filter on the open spigot of social networking. Short of being able to verify the flood of information coming out of Iran, news orgs are in a position to begin the work of verifying information publicly while providing important context.

    The New York Times, for instance, still has a reporter in Tehran and has a team of editors with institutional memory, so it doesn't have to blindly repeat what it's seen and heard on Twitter updates and YouTube videos. The paper also has staff that can sift through the flood of updates to pick out what is relevant, and help determine sources who are reliable (old fashioned reporter's work).

    Again, from the Times:

    Even anonymous Internet users develop a reputation over time, said Robert Mackey, the editor of a blog called The Lede for The New York Times’s Web site, who tracked the election and protest for almost two weeks. Although there have been some erroneous claims on sites like Twitter, in general “there seems to be very little mischief-making,” Mr. Mackey said. “People generally want to help solve the puzzle.”

    Readers repeatedly drew Mr. Mackey’s attention to tweets and photos of protests in the comments thread of the blog. Some even shared their memories of the geography of Tehran in an attempt to verify scenes in videos.

    Over time, the impromptu Iranian reporters have honed their skills. Some put the date of a skirmish in the file descriptions they send. Others film street signs and landmarks. But the user uploads can sometimes be misleading. Last Wednesday, Mr. Mackey put a call out to readers to determine whether a video was actually new. A commenter pointed to a two-day-old YouTube version.
    This kind of fact checking is important in this new dialectic between reader and news organization. It's also why it's wrong for news organization to see this kind of collaboration as inevitable. That's passive and short changes readers. Information may be coming more quickly and from geometrically more sources, but news organizations still have a responsibility to avoid becoming platforms for untrue or overly biased information. They should be gatekeepers worth subscribing to.

    Monday, June 15, 2009

    Memo from Ron Redfern

    June 15, 2009

    To: All PEC Employees

    We are changing our home delivery footprint in San Bernardino County.

    In January of this year, we were faced with the choice of leaving San Bernardino County or implementing a very aggressive price increase to allow us to cover our costs of publishing and continue delivering in San Bernardino County. Unfortunately, a significant number of subscribers in parts of S.B. County refused to accept the increase in price and cancelled their subscriptions.

    Consequently, after further review, we have made the decision to discontinue home delivery in certain parts of the San Bernardino market due to low penetration levels. We will continue delivery in those areas where subscriber acceptance remains high, but unfortunately we will eliminate home delivery service in Chino Hills, Ontario, Rancho Cucamonga, Fontana and Rialto on Monday, July 13, 2009. The final print edition of The Press-Enterprise will be delivered to subscribers’ homes on Sunday, July 12, 2009.

    Residents of those areas will still have access to the daily product in two ways:

    • P-Editionfor the very affordable price of $52 for an annual subscription or $1.25 per week for a 4-week subscription. We have eliminated the paid wall on for the next thirty days so people with access to the Internet can “test drive” the P-Edition at no cost through July 12, 2009.
    • Newsstand racks and retail outlets – we are leaving the single copy distribution channel in place in the areas where home delivery is being eliminated. The Press-Enterprise will still be available for daily purchase at our various retail and news rack locations throughout the area. Current pricing is $0.50/day Monday-Saturday, and $1.50 on Sunday.

    Please note that subscribers in the affected areas will be receiving letters in the next day or two informing them of this change. If you receive complaint calls, please refer them to our Customer Care Call Center. And if you have any questions, please feel free to talk your Vice President, or contact Kathy Weiermiller in Circulation.

    Regrettably, the current economic conditions force us to make this change; however, to paraphrase Mark Twain, “Contrary to what is being written about newspapers, the rumors of our death have been greatly exaggerated.” We are optimistic about our future, particularly because The Press-Enterprise is the only major newspaper in Southern California to show readership growth of over 5% from last year, and our overall audience is up over 33% from last year. Because of that amazing growth during this difficult time, we remain committed to being the best provider of local news, information, and advertising in the Inland Region.

    Thanks for your continued support.

    Ron Redfern
    Publisher, CEO & President
    The Press-Enterprise Company

    Tuesday, May 12, 2009

    Memo from Dean Singleton and Jody Lodovic

    May 8, 2009

    To: MediaNews Group Employees

    From: Dean Singleton

    Jody Lodovic

    Re: Interactive Strategic Summit

    Two weeks ago, 22 executives from across the company, including Publishers, Editors, and Interactive leaders, met to discuss MediaNews Group’s interactive strategy. While our websites attract a significant audience and drive considerable page views, we face three daunting challenges that needed to be addressed. First, we continue to do an injustice to our print subscribers and create perceptions that our content has no value by putting all of our print content online for free. Not only does this erode our print circulation, it devalues the core of our business - the great local journalism we (and only we) produce on a daily basis. Second, our interactive revenue growth has slowed because it has been too closely tied to our print classified business, which has suffered with the advent of Craigslist and other free online classified opportunities. Finally, we are not significantly extending the reach of our audience, as our online products too closely resemble the newspaper, and thus fail to meaningfully reach the next generation of readers.

    This interactive summit was meant to address these issues head-on; to build a strategic plan that places a value on our content, protects our core print business, extends the reach of our audience, and creates new revenue opportunities online. We cannot continue to give all of our content away for free; we must consider, create and deploy new products and sites that both decouple our interactive revenue from our classified business and offer a compelling new experience for a younger (non-newspaper buying) demographic. From this conference, we have built consensus on a three pronged approach to enhance our business moving forward:

    · We will begin to move away from putting all of our newspaper content online for free. Instead, we will explore a variety of premium offerings that apply real value to our print content. We are not trying to invent new premium products, but instead tell our existing print readers that what they are buying has real value, and to our online audience (who don’t buy the print edition), that if you want access to all online content, you are going to have to register, and/or pay. If a non-subscriber wants the newspaper content in its entirety online, they will be directed to some sort of registration or pay vehicle (and if they are a print subscriber, they will have full access at no charge). To be clear, the brand value proposition to the consumer is that the newspaper is a product, whether in print or online, which must be paid for.

    · We will begin differentiating our sites from the newspaper and focus on strategies designed to reach younger audiences and extend our reach. The websites, as we call them now, will become a different product. This new site, which we have been calling, will be a regional news site that is actively managed to present breaking news. It will continue to draw a content from the newspaper (but probably in a more abbreviated form), but will also have user-generated content, community involvement and third party content. will continue to serve our existing audience, which spends a lot of time on our sites, and drive significant traffic. They like and depend on our sites for their national and local news. We must not alienate them as we strive to expand our audience and attract younger people and non newspaper subscribers. Obviously, our sites must draw upon the content of the newspaper, but the presentation of that content will be different. will be an entry page to new content offerings, local retail advertising opportunities and premium offerings.

    · We will build a new local utility site (, which is an ecosystem of local information, resources, user content, shopping guides, and marketplaces. This site will be focused on a younger audience as well as other targeted audiences based on demographics which are attractive to our current and potential advertisers. We have the advantage of being the trusted source of for news and information in our communities and have a large base of traffic to feed into will leverage existing newspaper content and existing traffic, and we will add new content (such as Entertainment/Lifestyle) to target a younger audience. Central to this local site will be an aggregation of city or community sites (in the YourHub model) and marketplaces. will be the ultimate site for people to find stuff, do stuff, and get stuff done in their local market.

    We will initially focus on five or six niche vertical content channels to support targeted advertising opportunities (many of which have reverse publishing opportunities). We will build these out with a common template, for ease of execution and maintenance, and deploy across the company.

    New tiered circulation pricing strategies will be considered as part of, and tied to, the above online strategies. Such pricing strategies will be designed to maximize revenue, improve overall profitability, add value to full priced, seven day delivery, subscriptions, and reinforce the value for online content.

    In order to execute this vision, we have agreed that these new strategies will be done with a template approach, using a menu of common tools and vendors. We will take advantage of the size of MNG to leverage enterprise solutions and build off a common platform that allows for fast implementation and a companywide rollout.

    We will form four taskforces (News, local, premium and technology) to drive these ideas to market. They will focus on content, sales, marketing, research and build a business plan. We will also form a technical taskforce to evaluate the needs of a new content management system.

    We will keep you posted periodically as we develop these new products and as this strategy evolves. Our online business is a critical piece of the future growth of this company and is integral to growing and targeting new audiences. Our newspapers continue to attract the largest and most desirable audiences in our local markets, but we feel strongly that developing new and targeted audiences online will position us to deliver the most comprehensive and effective solutions for our advertisers.

    Monday, May 4, 2009

    Think Piece by Lee Abrams*

    April 30, 2009


    Constantly hearing the doom and gloom...the cutbacks, the negative stuff. It's pretty real, but throughout our company there's a LOT of re-invention going on. In fact, when this economy improves, WE will be the ones with the upper hand because instead of dwelling on the pain, we're doing something about it. Economically of course, AND IN CONTENT/CREATIVE. As sad as the state of the economy is, it's equally sad to see people whining, complaining and feeling sorry for themselves and the industry, when that energy can go toward breaking down some walls.

    Just a few of the people out there moving FORWARD:

    From Digby Solomon:

    We had a full house for our upfront party for advertisers last night, announcing we were taking The Daily Press all-color. The Mayor even showed up to praise the Daily Press for taking a proactive stance during a recession to keep up with the times, and to tell people were we’re important both to the community and to local business. We got great feedback from our clients, and reset their view of us from part of a troubled industry to someone who was working to help them market themselves during a recession.

    The link to our Daily Press page on you Tube shows the video we presented at the art museum last night to tell the story. The first part is a 30-second commercial we'll be running (free) on WTKR for consumers. It's not Hollywood quality, but the price was right, mostly done in house.

    SACRAMENTO VS. YOUTUBE: Instead of letting the web own something, they’re fighting back and claiming their ground as a TV station.

    From: Mercer, Brandon
    To: Abrams, Lee
    Sent: Thu Apr 23 01:05:37 2009
    Subject: Local TV

    Also.... remember the Southwest rapper you sent out a while ago? I'm working with Southwest to fly him out for our morning shows, and share him with Trib/LTV stations that want him, while he's here.


    It's a MODEL for brands working together. Amazing. A year ago this stuff would be, it's happening:
    From Joyce Winnecke:
    Last week was Recession Relief Week for Chicago Tribune readers. And it was Recession Relief Week for Hoy, WGN-TV, WGN-AM and CLTV audiences too.
    We coordinated editorial content and promotion across the newsrooms and business offices to create a full-market experience for millions of readers, listeners and viewers. Recession Relief Week began in our newsroom as an extension of the consumer team’s ongoing Recession Survival Guide. Very early in the planning stages, we expanded our story lists to include segments produced by each of our partners, many featuring Chicago Tribune expertise. We promoted in every direction possible, in our pages, in Hoy and on-air.
    As Tony Hunter said yesterday, we acted like one company for the first time.
    You’ll see more of this. We know that using the full strength of Chicago Tribune Media Group is key to our vision of becoming the dominant news and information destination in Chicago. We’re looking for more and better ways to coordinate with our partners.
    Sheila Solomon is leading the charge for us. She’s giving WGN our front-page stories to tout on-air each evening. She’s arranging for our writers to discuss their fine work on-air. And she’s finding experts from our newsroom to help broadcast partners when they have specific needs. We want to promote Hoy, WGN-TV, WGN-AM and CLTV every chance we get too.
    We’ll seek more opportunities like Recession Relief Week, and with those we will take the all-important next step – working far enough in advance to allow advertising teams to sell against the coordinated coverage.
    This editorial coordination and cross-promotion is a critical part of our drive to thrive. Please send me your thoughts and ideas.

    I added:

    I think, moving forward, we look at topics beyond (and in addition to) the "how to cope with how bad everything is"
    Imagine what the GROUP could do with Chicago hot buttons like:


    Around the country I notice there's a LOT of recession help type stuff and obviously that’s important...but the GROUP power focusing on other mass appeal issues and PASSIONS could be very strong.



    OWNING THE CUBS beyond airing the games…they are engaging the stars with a “60 Seconds” feature. The stars may be time pressed, but getting them for ONE minute shouldn’t be impossible.
    Here are three that aired. This week is Ryan Theriot. I'll be sure to have the talent mention the player name at least 3 times in the segment. Once at the beginning....middle....end.
    The files are here:

    From WGN TV’s Marty Wilke:
    Here's the first look at our new audio logo (incorporating the WGNA sonic notes) for the Chicago TMG brand!
    Starts tomorrow on our air and will run everywhere on the station.
    Shared w the TMG cross-marketing and promotion representatives today @ our regular meeting and will be pushing out to them today for use on their websites, pre/post-rolls, and presentations -- wherever and whenever we can to co-brand the most dominant brands in Chicago!

    And...from WGN AMERICA.

    (I have heard that there's some mysterious research indicating that people don;t like audio on websites. I imagine it can be a little annoying if you are barraged...but it seems to work fine when you click onto Windows or a Mac)

    Take a look at some of WGN-AMERICA'S "local" images. Of course, 'local' for them is the whole Country. The point here is how the channel captures 'local' flavor via Reality instead of cliché. In other words, instead of the Grand Canyon or a Mom holding a baby that's holding an American flag, these are more REAL America. I think this is a good angle in capturing the REAL market vs. either:

    *The clichés: The obvious landmarks that are ore about tourism than those who live there

    *The fake: Fake skylines that are....fake

    ...future "postcards" will incorporate characters. REAL people.

    I'm adding 89 new images to our on-air postcard library. Sean, some of these pix are yours, some are Langmyers and some are ones that i've gathered. we've got a good mix of shots here - urban/rural/country/industrial.

    Ignore the seasonal one from Ohio - that will air in the fall. the statue of soldiers @ iwo jima is part of a thing i'm putting together for memorial day. the retro stamps are just freakin' cool.


    SFL MORNING SHOW : A note I sent to Randy, Ed, Sean and others after experiencing WSFL:

    Very blown away by the morning show! Not only the show, but the spirit and attitude of EVERYONE involved. If we can get 10 percent of this level of afdi, energy and willingness to reinvent at our other stations, we'll truly revolutionize TV.
    There were quite a few nitpiks that I'll review today with the group, but overall, they are soooo local and soooo refreshingly and NOTICEABLY different from EVERYone else.
    The other stations look disconnected, TOO professional and slick and "nationalized" in comparison, and I think this show is on track to hit its psychographic head on. Watched the competition and it was hilariously dated—Stiff, evil looking Ivory Tower news people wearing 1987 Reagan era suits, taking “news speak” with blue and silver everywhere. As organic and real as a chunk of linoleum. The CONTENT was generally fine, but undermined by a dated-playbook presentation.

    They know their place on the intellectual/culture scale---and nail it well.

    One BIG challenge is going to be to get the other 20 hours of sfl to match the magic of the morning show. 24/7/365

    There's of course a lot for them to do but I can tell we have the makings of a winner that can be influential at our other stations. This show is SO south Florida, you can't simply recreate it, but it CAN serve as a model of breaking away, blowing up the playbook, creating a wonderful internal vibe (more like a killer radio station in 1975 than a TV station), and afdi.

    I'm impressed and excited about where this can go. In a year...look out!

    There are so many things they're doing right--the breezy way they refer to YouTube and facebook (vs "tech minute") to the set (love the retro photos and the painting of the city instead of a fake backdrop).
    A work in progress of course, and not perfect, but they got the mojo going.
    Now, just gotta make sure this sprit happens 24/7....and the whole station sings with new image innovation!
    ZERO TV baggage…and it shows. Traditionalists will laugh…kinda like the old farts at BMG laughed at the audacity of “digital music”.

    …The teamwork in Chicago, the spirit of reinvention in South Florida...Just two of the things that will define the Tribune Company, and in time the whole Media Industry.
    *Editor's Note: I deleted a few lines from the Abrams' memo that offered password access to an online photo gallery.

    Thursday, April 30, 2009

    Email from Cortney Fielding


    Sadly, the rumors are true. I was recently caught by janitorial staff attempting to stuff the Daily Journal’s prize decorative otter into a burlap sack with plans to set him free in some other, unsuspecting newsroom. I couldn’t take the way he was silently mocking me, day after day, as I walked from the atrium to my cube. Thankfully, the good people here at the DJ said there was no need to bring the authorities into this, but I think I better make a break for it just the same.

    Seriously, leaving was a tough decision. I’ve loved working with everyone here and really enjoy covering LA courts, but curiosity has gotten the better of me. I want to see what, if anything, I can accomplish out on my own and maybe catch my breath a little while figuring out what I want to do next in this business.

    Granted, this is something I probably couldn’t do if I hadn’t had the foresight to marry a man who would one day collect a stable paycheck from a boring old insurance company, so props go to me for that.

    I got into journalism because I enjoyed storytelling and lacked the imagination necessary to make stories up myself. Why bother when there is already so much great material ripe for the picking? I plan on continuing to tell other people’s stories. I’ve gotten a few cool freelance gigs to get me started, and I’m working on some bigger projects I’ll tell everyone about after they are more certain-so I don’t look like a total loser if they fall through.

    But, if by the end of the year, I’m calling you as a PR person trying to pitch a story about an amazing law firm’s ground-breaking swine-flu practice, I guess we will know this was a very,very bad idea.

    Your co-worker and friend,


    Wednesday, April 8, 2009

    Freedom of Speech

    A fundamental right so easy to applaud, so very difficult to protect

    By Richard McKee

    The freedom to express yourself in a public forum, without fear of government censorship, is protected by the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech.” The Fourteenth Amendment extends this prohibition to the states as well.

    As the U.S. Supreme Court has opined, “[A]bove all else, the First Amendment means that government has no power to restrict expression because of its message, its ideas, its subject matter, or its content.” (Police Department of Chicago v. Mosley (1972) 408 U.S. 92, 95.)

    Even when the government creates a public forum for a particular purpose, “Once it has opened a limited forum, however, the State must respect the lawful boundaries it has itself set. The State may not exclude speech where its distinction is not "reasonable in light of the purpose served by the forum” . . . nor may it discriminate against speech on the basis of its viewpoint.” (Rosenberger v. Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia (1995) 515 U.S. 819, 829.)

    Nevertheless, today, government asserts that its own right to speech should trump the free speech rights of individuals. And surprisingly, the courts have agreed. (see Morse v. Frederick (2007) 127 S.Ct. 2618.)

    A perfect example was found recently in California’s Orange Unified School District. Within its seven-member Board of Education was a dissident trustee, an oddball with conspiracy theories named Steve Rocco. But he was for openness, for the public being involved in every discussion, and as such he refused to attend the Board’s closed sessions.

    At the end of one board meeting, after Rocco had learned that the superintendent had used a closed session to tell the board the he had reassigned a high school principal to a nonexistent position, Rocco told the audience that he would have fired the principal, who had received a great deal of public criticism at an earlier meeting, rather than have the public continue to pay him an administrator’s salary.

    In response, the superintendent decided to remove Rocco’s comments from a video of the meeting that was distributed to local broadcast outlets for airing to the public. The video provided no notice that the meeting had been edited.

    At the next meeting, a majority of the school board expressed its outrage at Rocco’s earlier comments, saying he had defamed the principal and violated both the Brown Act (the state’s open meeting law) and the principal's right to privacy under the California Constitution.

    Of course, these were bogus assertions. Rocco’s comments were made during the board meeting, where his criticism of the principal’s performance and the superintendent’s decision are completely protected.

    The board then censured Rocco for his negative comments. The board president told Rocco that the “disciplinary action” should be interpreted to mean: “Do not do it again in the future.”

    Supported by Californians Aware, an open-government advocacy group, Rocco sued both the board and superintendent. He claimed that he had a right to address district issues at a public meeting and, as an elected official, had a duty to keep the public informed. He told the court that the school district had illegally interfered with his ability to communicate with his constituents: by censoring his comments from the meeting tape; by violating the Brown Act’s prohibition against board action to discourage his criticism; and by violating California’s constitutional protection affording public access to information about district business.

    The courts ignored the Brown Act and the Constitution, instead ruling that Rocco’s lawsuit had interfered with the board’s First Amendment right to speak its mind by censuring him, as well as its right to control its own speech by editing the meeting video in any way it wanted. Finally, the court ordered Rocco and his co-plaintiffs to pay the district’s attorney fees, which amounted to about $80,000.

    In essence, the court said a government agency can cut out any information from its publications that might cast its decisions in a bad light, and the agency can take any action it wants to discourage elected officials from criticizing administrative decisions.

    America’s republican form of government – of, by, and for the people presupposes that the public will be kept informed as to the issues its government faces and retains the right to instruct their representatives as to the best course of action.

    When the courts endorse the government’s right to limit or control the information it provides to the public, they allow the government to control the outcome of decision-making (i.e., Iraq has weapons of mass destruction).

    Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes first described the rational for protections meant to ensure an open marketplace of ideas: “The best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market, and that truth is the only ground upon which [people’s] wishes safely can be carried out.” (Abrams v. United States (1919) 250 U.S. 616, dissenting opinion.)

    By its opinion in Californians Aware v. Orange Unified School District, G038499 (Cal.App. 9/4/2008), the Fourth District Court of Appeals authorized school boards to distribute to the public: state test score summaries absent scores from under-performing schools, tapes of board meetings with all of the negative public comments deleted, and financial reports with evidence of any fraud removed.

    The concern here is historically simple. Those holding power don’t always have our best interests at heart; and power is protected by controlling what information is released.

    In a public forum, government speech should never trump individual speech rights. And government speech must never include the selective release of information meant to mislead the public.

    The California Legislature should move quickly to enact new law that condemns the courts for ignoring the people’s constitutional right to an open government and freedom of expression, ensures the opinions of elected officials may not be abridged nor discouraged and keeps government from distorting information to gain approval from the people.

    In formulating educated opinions on how its government should act, the people’s right to an open marketplace of ideas must be preserved.


    Thursday, April 2, 2009

    Memo from Robert Decherd

    April 2, 2009

    Dear Colleagues:

    Since I last communicated with you in late January, the challenges A. H. Belo and our industry are facing have intensified – reflecting one of the most trying advertising environments our industry has ever encountered. We have made significant progress implementing the cost reduction initiatives I described in my January 30 letter, and the Company-wide reduction in force is nearing completion. Identifying additional opportunities to manage cash remains our first priority, and we are making salary changes similar to those recently announced by many of our peer newspaper companies.

    On Tuesday, the Board of Directors approved my recommendation to reduce my base salary by 20 percent and the base salaries of other Management Committee members by 15 percent, effective immediately. In addition, all full-time employees making more than $25,000 per year will have reductions in base salary as follows:

    $25,000 and under 0
    $25,001 - $74,999 2.5 %
    $75,000 - $102,499 5.0 %
    $102,500 - $149,999 7.5 %
    $150,000 - $225,000 10 %
    Over $225,000 15 %

    These changes will be effective starting in the payroll cycles on or near May 1. The annual savings represented by these reductions exceed $10 million. We will ask employees who are covered by collective bargaining agreements to voluntarily lower their salaries by the levels described above.

    If you are notified prior to June 30, 2009 that you will be impacted by the reduction in force currently underway, your severance will be calculated at your current base salary as of today’s date.

    Our hope is to restore most or all of these cuts for impacted employees at some time in the future, as business conditions permit. To cushion the impact of the wage cuts, all impacted employees will receive three additional personal days per calendar year, effective at the time of the salary reductions.

    For participants in the G. B. Dealey Retirement Pension Plan, the Company intends to fund the Pension Transition Supplement Plan (PTS) contribution for 2008 no later than October 15, 2009. The PTS Plan contribution will be suspended for 2009. The funding for the calendar year 2009 contribution that would normally be made in 2010 will not be made, preserving approximately $6 million in cash next year. A detailed explanation of the PTS Plan changes will be mailed to all participants within the next week.

    These decisions are not taken lightly and all are made with a focus toward maintaining A. H. Belo’s ability to be the leading provider of local news, information and advertising in the markets it serves. The cost-reduction initiatives we have implemented have real consequences and everyone is affected in some way. As conditions improve – which they inevitably will – we expect to look back at these steps as being painful but necessary for the long-term prosperity of our great Company. What we do everyday is special. I thank you for the sacrifices and ongoing contributions all of you are making every day. You are being asked to do much at a time when our audiences and advertisers are looking to us to help make sense of an environment that is challenging individuals and organizations well beyond our own.

    I will communicate with you again soon.

    Robert Decherd
    Chairman of the Board
    Chief Executive Officer

    Friday, March 27, 2009

    Memo from 21st Century (a division of AIG)

    Dear 21st Century Insurance Policyholders:

    On behalf of all the employees of 21st Century Insurance and Financial Services (21st Century Insurance), I first want to thank you for your continued loyalty and support during these challenging times.

    I would like to take a moment to address some items that have undoubtedly created a level of uneasiness and frustration for many of our customers. Because of the tremendous support and cooperation from the United States government and its taxpayers, our parent company, AIG, has been able to continue its operations as a world-class provider of insurance services. However, with this support comes a high-level of attention to all of AIG's activities.

    It is important to clarify that although the insurance companies affiliated with the 21st Century Insurance brand are subsidiaries of AIG, they have not accessed or needed any of the Federal Reserve borrowings to fund their operations. Nor have they received any capital contribution from any AIG company to support their operations. 21st Century Insurance is an organization of 6,500 employees whose mission is to deliver outstanding value and service for your auto insurance needs - a mission we are striving to achieve every day.

    The insurance companies affiliated with 21st Century Insurance, which underwrite and provide coverage under your policies, are financially strong and continue to deliver outstanding coverage, service and payment of claims to all of our customers. The assets of the insurance companies are protected by state laws for the benefit of policyholders.

    Additionally, AIG recently announced the formation of a general insurance holding company called AIU Holdings, Inc. This move will help enhance and protect the value of those property and casualty companies for all its stakeholders. The organization will include the Commercial Insurance Group, Foreign General unit, and other property and casualty groups. 21st Century Insurance will also be part of this new, separate organization.

    We genuinely appreciate your business. At 21st Century Insurance, we are focused on putting you, the customer, first, and we look forward to providing you with the great coverage and award-winning service that you deserve.

    Anthony J. DeSantis

    Monday, March 23, 2009

    Memo from Craig Dubow

    Dear Co-workers:

    We are about to begin the second quarter without any real relief in sight from this unprecedented economic downturn and its challenge to our company. Despite all of your truly remarkable efforts to reverse the trend, our revenue numbers continue their downward slide and we have been faced with more difficult decisions.

    One of those choices was between more layoffs or another round of furloughs. We chose, for most employees, a furlough program consisting of at least one week of unpaid leave to be taken in April, May or June.

    The program will differ from the first quarter’s in a couple of important ways:
    • The length of the furlough for employees will vary somewhat by division or location, depending on the division’s operating needs and results.
    • Our higher salaried employees will be asked to make an additional sacrifice. This could be a second furlough week or a week’s furlough plus a temporary salary reduction equivalent to one week’s pay for the quarter, depending on the division and/or location.
    • Some hourly employees will not be required to take a full week. Each division or location will have different requirements for employees in this category.
    Because of the variations, your division head will be the main source of information about your particular program. Memos will be going out shortly to each of you with specific details.
    Corporate employees will be participating, as with the first quarter’s program, including all of our company officers and me. Corporate’s memo will come from Gracia.

    There will be some exemptions, similar to the first quarter’s program. For instance, some locations that recently have had, or are in the midst of, layoffs or significant salary reductions will be exempt. Represented employees again will be asked to participate in lieu of layoffs.

    As with our first program, we are doing furloughs to hopefully mitigate the need for layoffs and to preserve our operations in the face of these extraordinary economic times. We believe this is the best possible course, given the alternatives.

    We also need to keep innovating, selling ads and reaching out to audiences to prepare for the return of the economy. When that happens, I believe we will be well prepared to move quickly and take advantage of the new opportunities.

    Again, I must thank you all for your hard work, loyalty and dedication. I am truly looking forward to the day I can send an email that congratulates you on getting us through these hard times. That day isn’t here yet, but I believe it will be. So we must continue to do whatever we can to keep Gannett strong and prepare for the future.


    Friday, February 13, 2009

    Memo from Ron Redfern

    February 10, 2009
    TO: All PEC Employees
    FROM: Ron Redfern

    Dear Colleagues:

    By now, I hope all of you have read Robert Decherd’s letter of January 30th to all A. H. Belo employees. If you have not, you can access it on the A. H. Belo intranet site or obtain a copy from Human Resources.

    In the letter, Robert describes how the present economic climate, coupled with the significant challenges that the newspaper industry was facing even before the recent economic downturns, have made this an especially difficult time for our newspaper company, as well as newspaper companies across the country.

    We continue to be very uncertain about what will happen with our economy in this coming year. Consequently, we are anticipating further advertising revenue declines for 2009 from 2008, and in fact, our January results bear this out. Because advertising revenues account for approximately 80% of our company’s revenue, we need to implement the expense-reduction measures outlined in Robert’s letter.

    Two things were not ready for communication at the time of Robert’s letter: the timing of the layoffs and the severance package.

    As to timing, we anticipate completing the layoffs by the end of April. We are currently in the process of determining the extent of the layoffs and will notify impacted employees as soon as possible. If for some reason the layoffs will extend beyond April, you will be advised.

    A. H. Belo has adopted a severance plan that governs the amount of severance to be paid to employees who terminate employment with an A. H. Belo company due to a reduction in force.
    • Generally, employees who are terminated due to the reduction in force and who sign the separation-and-release agreement, will receive a lump-sum severance payment of one and one-quarter (1.25) weeks of current base pay for each year of employment. The maximum severance allowed is 10 weeks. The minimum severance payment for eligible employees will be two weeks. Partial years of service will be used for purposes of calculating the severance payment.

    • The severance payment will be made once the separation-and-release agreement has been signed and, when applicable, the revocation period has expired.

    • Outplacement services to assist employees in looking for their next employment opportunity are being provided as part of the offer.
    Thanks to each of you for your continued support and efforts on behalf of The Press-Enterprise. Our mission as an organization is an important one for all of the communities we serve in the region. It is unfortunate that we must take these measures to sustain that mission, but they are truly necessary. I appreciate your cooperation during these difficult and challenging times.

    Tuesday, February 3, 2009

    Memo from the Modesto Bee (dated 1/28/09)

    In order to help offset decreases in advertising revenue, we will be reducing a significant number of pages in the paper each week.

    These are not things we want to do, but things we need to do.

    In the next several weeks, we'll be:

    § Consolidating and/or combining some sections.

    § Reducing the number of section fronts.

    § Eliminating some pages and sections altogether.

    § Refocusing some sections with content that we think will be a plus for readers.

    At one point we considered going to a two-section paper on Mondays, which would move the local news into the A section. But given all the changes in the paper, with the web reduction and the shift to Sacramento, we decided against that at this time.

    The changes we're making could reduce the weekly page count by 16 pages, plus or minus depending on ad volumes and sizes. One daily page is about $280, so, for example, taking 10 pages out of the paper over the course of the week would save about $2,800 or more than $145,000 a year.

    Monday, February 2, 2009

    Memo from Fred Hamilton on Inland Division management moves

    Dear Fellow Employees:

    As part of a further restructure and management consolidation I am pleased to announce the appointment of Steve Lambert to the position of Editor and General Manager for the San Gabriel Valley Newspaper Group.

    Steve has been Editor of the San Bernardino Sun and Inland Valley Daily Bulletin for seven years and also serves as Vice President of News for the Los Angeles Newspaper Group. In his new role, he will also serve as general manager for our Inland Division.

    Steve has done an outstanding job as editor and has been instrumental in the strategic planning for new product launches and content and revenue initiatives that have been rolled out across the division.

    Steve Replaces Fred Board, who is no longer with our company.

    Frank Pine, currently senior editor for the San Gabriel Valley Newspaper Group, becomes executive editor of The Sun and Daily Bulletin, handling day-to-day oversight of those news operations.

    Fred Hamilton
    Publisher and CEO
    Inland Newspaper Division

    Wednesday, January 28, 2009

    Memo from Fred Hamilton

    January 28, 2009

    Dear Fellow Employee:

    In a further effort to help offset the continuing decline in revenue and position the company for future financial success while mitigating further job losses, I am announcing the implementation of a mandatory one (1) week furlough for employees to be scheduled during the period beginning February 1, 2009 and running through the month of March. All executive and management of the Company will be included. Each employee's department will determine the actual week an employee is furloughed.

    I realize that we are all working hard to overcome this difficult time. I know this action will create a strain on our personal budgets, and unfortunately, I cannot guarantee that a furlough will prevent any further layoffs. However, from what I am hearing across our company... "a brief period without pay is better than many more layoffs."

    This is not to trivialize the serious nature of furloughs. Implementing unpaid furloughs is indeed a very serious step. This furlough action is unprecedented for our company.

    Over the next few days, your department heads will meet with you to further explain the furlough process and how people will be scheduled. A Q&A sheet is being prepared for distribution. Your human resources contact will be available to assist you and your supervisors. Personal situations will be considered based on seniority and the operational needs of the company. But, such considerations should only influence when a person's furlough begins and ends, not if a person will or will not be excused from a furlough.

    As always, our customers remain our highest priority. Through your dedicated efforts, we have continued to publish quality newspapers and to produce top notch websites. Our challenge is to assure that we remain a strong company and continue to develop innovative new products which provide value-added for our customers.

    At this time, it is important to understand that we, like many media and other companies, are facing significant challenges due to the deep recession. We are not the first and we certainly won't be the last to implement furloughs or take similar steps in order to address these challenges and keep our financial houses in order. We take these actions on our own because we can and we should... for the long term good of our customers and ourselves.

    Thank you for your understanding, your support and your dedication.


    Fred Hamilton
    Publisher and CEO,
    Inland Division