The New York Times’ media writer, the iconoclastic David Carr, sawed away mercilessly Monday at two of the nation’s major newspapers chains, Gannett and Tribune Co.
In his weekly column, Carr said that current and former executives at those two companies (and, really, you could lump in several others, including McClatchy, which owns The Star) were just as guilty of corporate greed and self-enrichment as Wall Street bankers.
He cited the case of Craig A. Dubow, who resigned recently as Gannett’s chief executive.
“His short six-year tenure was, by most accounts, a disaster,” Carr wrote. “Gannett’s stock price declined to about $10 a share from a high of $75 the day after he took over; the number of employees at Gannett plummeted to 32,000 from about 52,000, resulting in a remarkable diminution in journalistic boots on the ground at the 82 newspapers the company owns.”
And was Dubow shown the door for that miserable performance? Oh, no, He retired on his own volition and “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,” Carr continued.
Carr said: “Forget about occupying Wall Street; maybe it’s time to start occupying Main Street, a place Gannett has bled dry by offering less and less news while dumping and furloughing journalists in seemingly every quarter.”
The same words could be spoken about McClatchy, which has bled The Star dry, with its overall employment going from about 2,000 several years ago to about 750 now.
It’s even worse at the Tribune Co., which owns The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune and The Sun (of Baltimore), among others. Sam Zell, a blunderbuss with a background in radio-station ownership, bought Tribune in 2007 and quickly ran it into the ground — and bankruptcy court.
More than 4,000 people have lost their jobs at Tribune properties, and the Zell-appointed leaders who remain are eligible for a bonus pool of $26.4 million to $32.4 million under the current plan to exit bankruptcy.
Carr summed up the situation this way…
“No one, least of all me, is suggesting that running a newspaper is a piece of cake. But the people in the industry who are content to slide people out of the back of the truck until it runs out of gas not only don’t deserve tens of millions in bonuses, they don’t deserve jobs.”
…What a disgrace. What a terrible plague “corporate journalism” has afflicted on the newspaper industry. My heart goes out to the thousands of good, honest journalists who didn’t get in the business to get rich but who are getting the shaft from executives doing just that.
Now, observations on a couple of strictly local stories…
:: You know how The Star rates the regional college football teams each week?
Well, the Southwest Early College football coach gets a big, fat “F” this week for failing to call police after someone shot holes in the side of the bus after a game last Friday at the former Southeast High School football field at Meyer Boulevard and Swope Parkway.
According to a story in Thursday’s Star, coach Tim Johnson told police he waited until Sunday morning to file a police report because he had thought district administrators were going to report it.
The bus starts to leave the Southeast grounds; shots are fired; kids on the bus are yelling and ducking under the seats; and the bus manages to get away without anyone on the bus being shot.
Then, the after the bus arrives back at Southwest, everybody piles out and checks out the bullet holes, and, apparently, the coach either bids the boys goodnight and sends them home, or he reports the incident to an administrator and then sends the boys home.
Holy shit! How would you entrust your kid’s safety to a guy like that? Did he fail to pick up the phone and call police? Or did he talk to an administrator and the administrator said, “Yeah, yeah, don’t worry, I’ll take care of it.”
Either way, it looks to me like the coach should be fired, and, if he reported it to an administrator — and the administrator didn’t report it immediately — the administrator should be fired, too.
Unfortunately, we’re talking about the Kansas City School District, where screw-ups are the norm.
:: Mary Sanchez wrote a nice piece yesterday about plans to raze Kemper Arena, which was built in the early 1970s.
She talked about some of the great musical artists who performed at the arena, including Paul McCartney and Wings in 1976.
My God, do I remember that night!
It was May 29, 1976 (I had to look it up) — a warm, beautiful evening. I was covering the Jackson County Courthouse for The Star, and the country assessor sold me his tickets…The county manager fixed me up with the sister of a friend…I was set.
I picked up the young lady, and we had some drinks and, as I recall, smoked a couple of joints. Our seats were down low, close to floor level, about halfway back from the stage, which was softly lighted in shades of blue, red and yellow.
From the first chords, the music was incredible. Just about the time McCartney and his wife Linda and the band got cranked up, though, my date told me she was feeling bad and was going to the restroom.
McCartney poured on, great song after great song — “Maybe I’m Amazed,” “Jet,” “Let Me Roll It,” “Lady Madonna,” “The Long and Winding Road,” “Blue Bird,” “Listen to What the Man Said,” “Hi, Hi, Hi,” and the incomparable “Band on the Run.”
After a few songs, I was torn between the music and thoughts about my date, suffering in the restroom. I walked up to the concourse and found her outside the restroom, looking pale and weak, and I asked her what she wanted to do. Selflessly, she told me to go back and watch the concert, assuring me she would be OK.
Well, I don’t know whether this was the right thing to do, but…I followed orders. I went back and watched the rest of the greatest concert I’ve ever seen. I whooped and hollered and swooned and felt like I’d been transported to a magical world.
I don’t remember much about the aftermath of the concert. I hooked up with my date and took her home…Pretty sure I didn’t get kissed. And, of course, that was the only date I ever had with her.
She was a nice kid; her name was Kathy. I’m sure she was a good catch for some guy.
If for no other reason than that concert, I will never forget Kemper Arena. I sloshed through the muddy grounds of the place many times, going to lousy Kansas City Kings basketball games, circuses and other stupid events, but the event I’ll always remember was Wings Over America!