‘Brave Words’ in the Face of Layoffs

We noted the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s layoffs yesterday. It goes without saying that layoffs are terrible whatever the industry, and we wish the best to those who were dismissed.

But don’t worry! Because the hard times in newspapers — or, at least, the Little Rock paper — are only temporary!

This, according to comments in the Democrat-Gazette’s newspaper story, printed today, in good ol’ comforting paper-and-ink newsprint. Managing Editor David Bailey told the newspaper staff that the DG isn’t experiencing a “newspaper problem.” The cuts are tied to the economy, and once the economy improves, the paper will staff up again.

[Executive Editor] Griffin Smith told the newspaper’s staff that Democrat-Gazette Publisher Walter E. Hussman told him, ‘We’re going to have to scale down, and when things get better, we’re just going to have to build it back up.”

“Those are brave words that most publishers aren’t saying,” he said.

Brave, only in that they’re not remotely possible!

Can anyone imagine newspapers, say, next year, the year after, building back fat newsrooms to be supported by print advertising? Because that’s the scenario we’re apparently talking about with the Democrat-Gazette, which continues to champion print circ numbers (“Not sinking as much as they other guys!”) and has only a limited Web strategy. Meanwhile, it’s cut people from its core news product and launched expensive niche magazine products.

Judging by this story, some haven’t yet faced the fact that the fundamental model for daily newspapers, as we have traditionally known them, doesn’t work anymore. For anyone.

“The economy” is only part of the problem. And frankly, it’s the not the worst part.


Another observation from a Twittering Werner Trieschmann, who says, “Newspapers will find that when the economy finally recovers they will have even more competition — from the people they let go.” Yeah, that sounds about right.

And finally, Warren Buffett, on his “wonderful” idea.


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