Since when did the obvious become startling?
I mean, really. For three years the Kansas City Star and other newspapers owned by the McClatchy Company have been passing out pink slips. It’s nothing new. The one-two punch of a dismal economy and a free fall in newspaper readership and circulation across the country have taken a brutal toll on a once prosperous industry.
So while some staffers at the Star were reportedly caught off guard last week when management told department heads to prepare for another round of layoffs, come on – how startling was it?
McClatchy sets quarterly goals for its papers and at the end of each period, cuts must be made if they don’t achieve those goals.
So while the Star is one of the brightest papers in McClatchy’s portfolio, it has to help carry the load of its less well endowed siblings in order to help keep the parent company afloat.
One Star columnist worried aloud Monday that 10 or 11 newsies might bite the dust in upcoming cuts.
"I haven’t heard any number," says a higher up. "After a while, you get numb to it."
And since pretty much everybody at the paper knows of the quarterly targets, that the cuts were announced after the end of the year comes as little surprise. Then again, publisher Mark Zieman’s did boast of the Star‘s profitability in the Christmas Day edition of the newspaper.
"Yeah, I think everybody was (somewhat) surprised, because we all thought we were doing better," says one staffer. "But I don’t see that we’ve done much to pick up our circulation numbers."
Therein, ladies and gentlemen, lies the problem. Readership may be up, up and away online but that’s not where the big revenues come from. Nor is it where the paper’s highest overhead resides. So as print profits continue to decline, print overhead must be reduced.
It’s just that simple.