Here we go again…
The first quarter of the year being up, staffers at the Kansas City Star are braced for another round of cutbacks and/or layoffs. Nothing’s been announced but after four years of cuts, a pattern’s emerged. Parent company McClatchy‘s newspapers are given quarterly financial targets. Those targets must be met or at quarter’s end cuts made.
The talk on possible pending cuts among insiders at the Star:
"Just that it’s coming is all I know," says one staffer. "I mean, I can’t even imagine more than five or six in the newsroom. One thing they might do is cut down the Lee’s Summit Journal and Olathe News from two days a week to one. To me it’s like our own zones compete with those papers anyway."
At some point – the gods of print advertising willing – things could stabilize and zero cuts be made. Past economic bounces – following layoffs and belt tightenings at the Star – have resulted in added staffing and other improvements.
And clearly there are some signs of economic recovery.
Car dealers report increased sales (despite rising gas prices and problems in Japan). And radio execs report improved ad sales. So there’s that. Unfortunately, none of which addresses the dramatic drop in newspaper readership and the aging demo of remaining readers.
One of the biggest sections of the paper these days is the obituary section. And while the daily death toll is money in the bank for the Star – since the obits are largely paid ads – they likely represent a loss in readers and/or subscribers. Take my mom, for instance, three years ago.
So we’ll see…
The way the Star layoffs game is generally played is staffers are told on the Monday after a pay period ends. Last time out in January a new wrinkle entered the mix. Work groups were convened and staffers were told that unless one of them volunteered to walk the plank, one would be selected by management.
That’s how longtime copy editor and Monday morning poet Don Munday reportedly dodged a bullet in January.
Munday declined to comment when I called to confirm and console him, but sources say a member of his group voluntarily resigned sparing Munday and the others the possibility of taking the hit.
Heck, who would write those clever poems that Sporting KC PR dude Rob Thomson is so fond of?
The prospect of cutting back or ceasing publication of the Olathe and Lee’s Summit papers is particularly interesting. Olathe News editor Rick Babson bought the farm in the Star‘s January layoffs. However somebody in the news food chain must have missed that memo because Babson’s still listed as Olathe News’ editor on its Web site.
Babson must have forgotten to turn out the lights on his way out the door…
Actually, Babson’s LinkedIn page indicates he’s in fierce competition with demoted, parttime Star columnist Mike Hendricks for "a position in media relations, communications and/or public relations."
When will fallen Star staffers realize that there’s a lot more to marketing and public relations than kissing up to editors and reporters?