So much for a nice, calm, body bag free year at the Kansas City Star…
Return with me now for a moment to my July 8, 2014 column about the somber state of affairs at 18th and Grand.
“There have been no layoffs this year, but there’s been lots of meetings lately, so we don’t know if there’s going to be anymore cuts. They say there won’t be anymore furloughs this year, but they’re still not filling any jobs and they’re not giving any cost-of-living increases. Did you see how thin today’s paper was?”
That was one Star staffer’s assessment heading into the heart of the summer after six months of relative calm.
Fortunately for the denizens of the newsroom, a number of unforced exits by heavy hitters such as Mike McGraw, Kevin Collison and Richard Espinoza had lessened the need for layoffs.
However that uneasy calm went away rather abruptly late last week.
That’s when the Reaper revisited the Star to the tune of an estimated 8 to 12 layoffs.
The highlight of which came in the form of the “voluntary” buyout more-or-less imposed upon editorial page editor Miriam Pepper – the woman sports-media soundbite dude Greg Hall once famously confessed to finding quite attractive.
“They told the editorial department someone had to go and if Miriam hadn’t stepped up and taken the buyout, somebody with less seniority would have had to take it,” says a source. “Kind of like the Hunger Games thing with Karen Dillon and Dawn Bormann a year and a half ago. I don’t know who all in editorial it was offered to, but Miriam took it and she’s been at the Star for 38 years.”
Additional cuts went down in circulation, “package and delivery,” the press pavilion, ad services and John Beaudoin, the editor/publisher of the Lee’s Summit Journal and Cass County Democrat.
Outside of Beaudoin and Pepper the newsroom appears to have been spared – again likely owing to the recent staff exits.
But for how long?
Coinciding with last week’s cuts, Star parent McClatchy announced a 3.2 percent drop in second quarter revenue despite selling off “major assets” (the Anchorage Daily News for $34 million) and reporting that ad revenues from “non traditional sources” (i.e. non print) had reached 43 percent of the company’s total ad revenues.
Unfortunately, that’s only the tip of the bad news.
Total second quarter McClatchy ad revenues were off 7 percent with circulation revenues down 3.1 percent.
That’s a one-two punch to the gut, ladies and gentlemen.
The question being, how to climb back into the deep black with fewer companies buying ads and while hemorrhaging readers in the core product?
Luring readers and advertisers is no easy feat while cutting back on the quantity and quality of the news product. Not only is the Star physically smaller with far fewer pages, it’s content quality has suffered significantly owing to layoffs, newsroom exoduses and the inability to hire quality replacement talent.
Because however you cut the cake, “less is more” is a pretty tough sale.