Tribune slashing jobs as McClatchy freefalls

March 9, 2009
The Tribune may be under more red than just the awnings. -- Photo by Daniel Blackburn

The Tribune may be under more red than just the awnings. — Photo by Daniel Blackburn


San Luis Obispo County’s daily newspaper, The Tribune, will terminate seven employees, and its top officials are reported to be warning of massive layoffs to come in the wake of a similarly foreboding announcement this morning by parent company McClatchy Newspapers Inc.

Tribune executives told staff, said one employee, that “they are facing bankruptcy if [the newspaper] is not sold within 30 days.”

Tribune publisher Bruce Ray said there has been no talk of bankruptcy and directed a CalCoastNews reporter to call corporate offices in Sacramento.

McClatchy Newspaper Inc. Treasurer Elaine Lintecum was asked if The Tribune was for sale, and facing financial difficulties if such a sale did not occur within 30 days.

“That is speculation. We don’t comment on speculation or news that hasn’t been released to the public,” she said. The Tribune’s parent company, McClatchy Newspapers Inc, said today it will reduce its workforce by 15 percent, or around 1,600 full-time equivalent employees, and cut wages for remaining staff as part of previously announced restructuring plans.

 The familiar corner Tribune newspaper stand may be a thing of the past. -- Photo by Daniel Blackburn

The familiar corner Tribune newspaper stand may be a thing of the past. — Photo by Daniel Blackburn

In September, a group of county investors, hoping to keep The Tribune locally owned, revealed attempts to purchase the struggling daily from its parent company. Sources said today that possibility still exists.

Newspapers throughout the country are stretched thin as they struggle with decreased readership and mounting debts. McClatchy, the country’s third largest newspaper chain, was more than $2 billion in debt at the end of 2008.

In 2007, McClatchy’s stock plunged nearly 70 percent. In January 2008, stock sold for approximately $10 a share. And this afternoon, following today’s announcement, stock fell 30 percent to 41 cents a share.

Since the early 1990s, newspaper readerships has been on a steady decline, with a 19 percent reduction in advertising revenue over the past four years. In contrast, the online news audience has skyrocketed from approximately 40 million in 2004, to 69 million as of October 2008, according to Nielsen online.

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By: Ron_SewerWatch on 3/20/09

Got-to-a-thinkin' since my last post (as usual)…

I wrote:

"if (the Trib) didn't suck, people would actually read them."


Dave wrote:

"… how would you change the paper (other than firing Sandy)?"

Here's what I would change.

First, I would fire Sandy. (Nah, just joking ; – )

No. I wouldn't fire her, I would just improve her nose for news. They seem to have a hard time grasping what makes a good, rich, readable, interesting, newsworthy story.

For example (and this is a PERFECT example of what I mean by "if they didn't suck, people would actually want to read them"), just in today's paper:

(I had to copy-and-paste the full URL, because I tried to leave a link in my initial post, but I guess these comments sections don't allow for some basic html. That's unfortunate, because links are very important.)

… there's another story on that minor league baseball team owner that bounced a couple of checks to the city of SLO.

Is that story newsworthy? I guess… in a kinda-sorta way (gotta admit, though, it doesn't do much for me).

But, here's where it gets weird for the Trib.

Concurrent with that "story" — this is happening right now in SLO County — there's an AMAZING story that involves how one of the Directors that was recalled from the Los Osos CSD in 2005, started his own "organization" immediately after he was recalled, and then used that "organization" in an attempt to officially "dissolve" the very government agency that he was recently recalled from.

The county agency that handled that "4 hearings over 9 months" dissolution effort, LAFCO, found the attempt to be so frivolous that they actually SUED the recalled CSD Director to get him to pay back some $30,000 – $40,000 to cover the public resources that were wasted on the matter.

Then, two years after said recalled LOCSD Director signed a document agreeing to pay that bill in full by a certain date, he had to go BACK to LAFCO, just last year, and beg for an extension to his $1,000/month payment schedule, which he was granted.

And, according to LAFCO, the final payment of the $40K is due next month.

Oh, and by the way, had his dissolution effort been successful, up to "$80 million dollars" in Los Osos "liabilities" — that he, as a recalled Director was largely responsible for racking up — would have transferred over to COUNTY taxpayers, and he didn't seem to care. However, LAFCO still rewarded him with a payment extension. (How's that taste, county taxpayers?)

That story — THAT STORY — has been taking place at the exact same time of the minor league baseball team owner "story," yet the Trib hasn't written a word on it, and THAT's how the Trib sucks.

Often, it's not what they publish, it's what they don't… that's the problem.

THAT's what I would change — a better nose for news. And, of course, that would increase their subscription base, because, it would be, you know, interesting, for a change.

If anyone's interested, last September, I wrote an open letter to Duerr regarding this exact subject.

Here's the link… errrr… URL:

If anyone's interested in reading up on that excellent, newsworthy, rich, timely story that I mentioned above, I reported on it here:

By: Ron_SewerWatch on 3/20/09

Dave wrote:

"The Anonymice like Vagabond (Hi Ron) find The Tribune an easy target…"

And, then I read that Vagabond wrote this:

" I wont bother with posting the links as George seems to get upset, just google sewerwatch."

Eeeeasy, Dave.

Although "Vagabond" does appear to have impeccable taste in journalism, that wasn't me that wrote that.

Personally, I never really understood why people post anonymously. Me? I'm so fond of my takes, that I make damn sure my name's attached to everything I post.

However, since I had to register to post here, just to clear up Dave's erroneous "The Anonymice like Vagabond (Hi Ron)" crack, I might as well add a little something to the Trib discussion.

Their whining about reduced readership, and ad revenues? Give me a break.

I've argued, for years now, that if they didn't suck, people would actually read them.

Awhile back, I heard Dan say on Congalton's show that one of the main reasons he and Karen started their excellent site, is because "the Trib refuses to do their job."

That is the EXACT same reason why I started SewerWatch in 2005.

I don't want to turn this into a Los Osos discussion, but if the Trib had simply done their job beginning in 2000, the Los Osos train wreck would have never happened.

That's true.

I put them at the top of the Los Osos blame list.

So, when they whine nowadays about their current predicament, all I can think is, if they didn't suck, people would actually want to read them.