Don’t look now, but so far so good….
After warning department heads a few weeks back of pending cuts, it’s been all quiet along the midwestern front at the Kansas City Star. The expected round of quarterly cutbacks and/or layoffs has failed to materialize. And now the month’s almost over.
Now the head scratching has sparked another rumor; that the layoffs have been postponed in the hope of brighter days ahead.
There’s a bit more to the story.
For starters, a natural attrition is going on at the newspaper as with many businesses. Especially ones with a large body of employees in their 50s and 60s that are at or nearing retirement age. In addition, a number of Star staffers have seen the hand writing on the wall the past few years
That the future of print journalism is iffy at best now.
To that end, many of the paper’s younger staffers – we’re talking 40s and down – have begun looking for alternate career options. Does the name Dan Margolies ring any bells? Don’t think for one minute that had Margolies chosen to stay at the Star, he’d not be there.
Former society and FYI editor Ann Spivak bailed very recently, for example.
Make no mistake, the Kansas City Star is not going away.
But how it distributes its news and what size staff it ends up with as it pares down to fighting weight for the future is anybody’s guess. Except for the fact that it will be a fraction of the size it now is, let alone has been.
Chances are once the un-growing pains are behind the Star, it will actually do a better job presenting the news.
It has to. The landscape is too competitive for it not to if it hopes to survive.
Many of the problems the Star and other newspapers are having stem from the fact that they grew into news and advertising monopolies.
With some exception, they didn’t really learn how to compete in today’s media landscape because they seldom had to.
But that’s obviously changing.
It continues to be a very difficult transition for the Star because to a large extent, the matter is generational. People like publisher Mark Zieman have spent their lifetimes looking at the way newspapers function through rose-colored glasses. They have very strong belief systems. Well intentioned ones for the most part. But dated ones.
Now, not only must they adapt, they must do so at gunpoint.