Absentee Landlord-Type Situation

4-11-18 Robert Channick, writing for the Chicago Tribune headlined Chicago Tribune Newsroom Seeking To Unionize. Analysis found this intriguing to consider that in this day and age, this country, workers would attempt to unionize; cultural workers at that. Why not, you ask? Of note from the report (which according to the current “conversation” would be heavily biased since it is being presented by one of those very same cultural workers. Including the self in the “conversation”, what a novelty!): “Organizers notified editors and sent a recruitment memo to staffers Wednesday, urging them to join the effort to form the paper’s first newsroom union. The stated goals include regular raises, advancement opportunities, better parental leave policies and a more diverse newsroom. But more than specific demands, the organizers say they seek to give voice to a newsroom buffeted by downsizing and shifting corporate leadership, most recently under Chicago-based Tronc.” “Formerly known as Tribune Publishing, Tronc owns the Chicago Tribune, New York Daily News, Los Angeles Times and other publications.” “”There’s been a real sense of anxiety and instability, and frankly chaos, in the newsroom, particularly in the past few months,” said Megan Crepeau, 29, a criminal courts reporter and eight-year veteran of the Chicago Tribune who helped organize the union effort. “I think that directly stems from our corporate ownership.”” “Last month, the Chicago Tribune began implementation of a newsroom reorganization that included layoffs.” Analysis needs to note that just recently Sinclair Broadcast Group reappeared in the news with its intentions to buyout Tribune Media, all of which received the Dear Leader’s tweeted blessing. Analysis fills in the back story from Wiki: “Prior to the August 2014 spin-off of the company’s publishing division into Tribune Publishing (now called Tronc, Inc.), Tribune Media was the nation’s second-largest newspaper publisher (behind the Gannett Company), with ten daily newspapers, including the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Orlando Sentinel, Sun-Sentinel and The Baltimore Sun, and several commuter tabloids.” The Advocate is a Gannett product (or process, whatever). Butt weight, there’s more. From the transcript of the PBS 4-9-18 Newshour entitled ‘We have got an absentee landlord’: Denver Post calls out owners for dramatic newsroom cuts. “In a blistering editorial, journalists at the Denver Post sounded the alarm about years of devastating job cuts and took the newspaper’s own hedge fund owners to task, begging to be sold. Amna Nawaz speaks to Chuck Plunkett, editorial page editor of the Denver Post, who co-wrote the editorial.” “The front-page editorial came after years of devastating cuts ordered by Alden Global Capital, a New York City hedge fund that stepped in to buy the paper in 2010. In it, the editorial page editors referred to Alden as vulture capitalists and wrote, “Denver deserves a newspaper owner who supports its newsroom. If Alden isn’t willing to do good journalism here, it should sell The Post to owners who will.” Just today, two dozen more staffers left The Post, the latest in a series of layoffs that have taken the 125-year-old paper from a newsroom of 250 journalists to fewer than 100.”[Plunkett projected it to hit 60] Mr. Plunkett: “Newspapers have a proud tradition of calling out the powerful, being the voice for the voiceless. And we even have a tradition that we run letters to the editor and op-eds written by outsiders who are critical of our work. On the editorial page, we are critical of government and private businesses who we don’t feel are living up to the job that they are supposed to perform. And in this situation, we believe that our owners are failing their readers, not just in Denver, Colorado, but in their many holdings across the United States, and that it was only proper to call them out and ask for better.” “We lost our publisher earlier this year. He has not been replaced with someone who spends time day in and day out in the Denver community. And that’s the problem that I’m beginning to see, is that we have got an absentee landlord-type situation.” The Denver metro area has a population of over 3 million. Sounds a bit like Columbus where the Dispatch’s landlord, Gatehouse Media, was likewise in the news with its purchase of the Akron Beacon Journal. Gatehouse Media is a holding company. Wiki gives “A holding company is a company that owns other companies’ outstanding stock. A holding company usually does not produce goods or services itself; rather, its purpose is to own shares of other companies to form a corporate group. Holding companies allow the reduction of risk for the owners and can allow the ownership and control of a number of different companies.” It is akin to a hedge fund. Talk about hedging, Mark Zuckerberg was also in the news this past week. Continuously he stressed that Facebook is only a platform for advertising and this is their main source of revenue. This puts him, and it, in company with Sinclair, Gannett, Alden, Tronc and Gatehouse. His digital “product” (actually a process) is unique in that it is a monopoly of choice, where the absentee landlord is totally absent! By choice, because during the late 90’s the slogan was “the internet can be whatever it is you want it to be”. But Analysis digresses. The facts on the ground are that Gannett discontinued the Advocate’s paper printing operation (and contracted outside Newark for that), has its downtown building up for sale (would have been a great county 911 center), and has no office to speak of – to pay bills, report community events or news, submit advertising, etc. requires accessing someone virtually (in another city?). The Advocate’s customer is the advertiser which it serves not only through traditional ads but also product placement stories, features, infotainment, op eds and even news. In a municipality where almost half the residential properties are non-owner occupant “that’s the problem that I’m beginning to see, is that we have got an absentee landlord-type situation.”

 

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