How much for The Town Talk?
It’s been an institution in our community since 1883. When you bought The Town Talk (and Central Newspapers) nine years ago, after it had been purchased by Central Newspapers in 1996 for $62 million in cash, you also bought a printing division known as McCormick Graphics, another institution in our community, named after the founder of The Town Talk, Edgar McCormick.
Great brands with great name recognition and a relatively stable region of consumers.
A regional newspaper monopoly, which is what, at the time, made your decision so obvious. After all, you specialize in mid-sized markets featuring only one or two dominant media outlets.
You’ve recently had to make a number of cuts, and though you have been coy about these decisions and the divisions they have affected, no one can deny that when you report “40 jobs will be affected,” as you did late last week, you either mean, “We’re shipping them off, or we’re cutting them.”
After hearing the news last week about your decision to shutter your in-house printing operations, a friend of mine said, “It only took them thirteen years to kill McCormick Graphics (a business that, in some form or fashion, has been in Alexandria for over a century).”
In my opinion, you’re struggling here because of the exponential proliferation of the Internet (and your overall reluctance to participate or understand how to translate your product online; your forum is an example of the absolute worst kind of hybridization, “serious” journalism succumbing to contextualization by a random group of anonymous and often ignorant contributors, whose comments are rarely, if ever, checked for facts or accuracy)… and you’re struggling because of your decision to run a local, home-grown newspaper as if it could ever be an asset that could yield a 30+% return to corporate.
You can dance around it; you can pretend as if you’re still a local paper with local folks delivering the local news. But, at the end of the day, you have to ship away a chunk of your profit margin here in Central Louisiana to your national offices in Virginia. (And, by the way, USA Today is still looking good).
When the output of your editorial writers and letter writers exceeds or nearly equals the production of the LOCAL news desk (and when your forum contributors are the MOST prolific of all), the problem becomes even more obvious: Opinions, after all, are cheap, but reporting the news is what makes a newspaper a newspaper.
And sometimes, the news is bleak.
From your forum, where, admittedly, I believe rumor and innuendo often passes without objection or oversight: