Word from the newsroom is that the buyout package that many expected to begin rolling out today won't happen now for at least a week. There seems to be confirmation of that in recent comments by Tribune Publishing CEO Jack Griffin. The cuts are going to hit the other papers in the chain as well, not just the LAT, although the Los Angeles impact is expected to be greater as Griffin tries to reset the financials and the direction after firing publisher Austin Beutner. New LAT publisher Timothy Ryan hasn't been seen or heard much in a public capacity yet, though he has started to be seen a little bit around the paper.
It may just be the people I hear from or talk to, but there's a lot of interest in the LAT newsroom in taking a buyout offer if it's at least reasonable. There's an assumption it's aimed at the veterans who have been there 20 years or more. Some also believe the departures will reach up into the masthead level, but you never know about these things.
Griffin gave an interview to Crain's Chicago last week in which said the numbers going around about the magnitude of cuts — $10 million in Los Angeles, perhaps amounting to 80 positions — are not the company's.
Nonetheless, sometime in the next few weeks, the company will once again resort to job and expense cuts to make up for continuing revenue declines….
He declined to specify details about upcoming cost reductions. While he didn't dispute that they're coming, he downplayed recently reported figures: “I have no idea where those come from. I have no idea. I've never seen those numbers before, and so in a tumultuous time like this, there's a lot of information and there's a lot of misinformation.”
Griffin also comes across in the article as more of an old-school print newspaper guy who's only dipping his toes into digital and just certain in his gut that young people will somehow start picking up dead trees again. For a minute there I thought he was going to fall into the "it's a daily miracle" sentimentality that's a dead giveaway of incorrigible print dinosaurhood.
During the interview at Tribune Publishing headquarters, Griffin exited a conference room to grab a copy of the Chicago Tribune and paged through it to demonstrate how the paper's format allows readers to skim stories and collect information they didn't know they were looking for, with a clear sense of its topical organization by section.
Holding the paper up, he said: “I could be wrong, but I don't think that this entirely goes away. I think there's enough about it—the experience that's sufficiently different with both the advertising and the editorial. I mean, how do you do that online?” He answers his own question later: “That's really hard to do online or on a phone.”
He insists that mobile devices are used more as search tools than anything else and ultimately won't be a sufficient replacement for newspapers. “I use these all the time,” Griffin says, laying his hands on a smartphone and iPad. “But I use them to find stuff that I'm looking for, and I read the paper to find out things I don't know.”
He said he expects young people, like his 20-something sons, will continue to gravitate to newspapers, even print editions. As they move into adulthood and begin to care more about settling into a community, they'll turn to a newspaper, as generations of Americans before them have, he predicts.
“I don't think they're going to completely unplug and just go to Google News when they want to find out the answer to a question, and then know nothing else other than what they see on Facebook,” Griffin said.
Also recently: At least two Wall Street analysts are critical of Tribune Publishing's future, with Zack's Equity Research today labeling Tribune a "strong sell." "As the earnings and tock price fall, with disarray in Tribune's Los Angeles property, "there is little hope that a quick turnaround is at hand anytime soon." Last week, Hamed Khorsand of BWS Financial Inc. blasted Tribune over the LA Times mess. “We have slowly begun to doubt the capabilities of management to circumvent the declining investor sentiment, and their ability to profitably manage a newspaper company for the long haul,” said the note. “Tribune’s management is close to wasting a tremendous opportunity to grow their revenue through strategic steps to address the fallout."
Mike Miner of the Chicago Reader visited the subject of the Freak show—the sisterhood of the Chicago Tribune and LA Times. He talks to Jack Fuller, the last Tribune Company boss who believed in a big and ambitious Los Angeles Times. LA Observed is quoted.