Vulture Capitalism and Your Local Newspaper

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It’s been a solid four months since the board at Lee Enterprises has handed out bonuses to the executives who’ve run the newspaper chain to ground, so there was little surprise when a new round of lucre, totaling $1.1 million was handed out to two executives on Friday.

Romanekso reports:

Lee, which reported an 18% profit decline in February, has regularly given raises and bonuses to Junck and her associates while the company lays off journalists, including the top editor at its Provo paper. In 2012, the Post-Dispatch’s leading columnist advised Junckto put more distance between her layoff announcements and her bonuses.

Meanwhile, reporters at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch are being paid less than they were six years ago.

It’s part of the same, disheartening pattern that gets repeated every few months at the Lee papers. Experienced reporters are pushed out, news desks are stretched thin, advertising is outsourced and the local product’s credibility gets destroyed.

As a result, as hopefully to get Ms. Junck another well deserved reward, I plan to kick off my “One Week in the Independent Record” feature. I’ll buy a copy of the local paper of record every day this week and we’ll take a look at what kind of coverage a bare bones shell of a paper, hollowed out by corporate greed, gets the local consumer.

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About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is an eighteen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.

His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.

In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

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The Polish WolfBig SwedeDon PogrebaMatthew KoehlerMark Tokarski Recent comment authors
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Foolslayer
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Foolslayer

Great idea, Don. Should develop much discussion.

mary mcculley
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Well how else do you expect JP Morgan and Deutsche Bank to repair their reputation? http://www.lee.net/newsreleases/pdf/Lee%20NR%20-%20Refinancing%20-%20033114.pdf

larry kurtz
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larry kurtz

The Rapid City Journal used a stock AP photo today showing wrappers used by heroin traffickers stenciled with ‘ObamaCare’ paying for Ms. Junck’s bonus. Other incidences among Lee papers are too numerous to mention.

http://rapidcityjournal.com/news/local/increase-in-heroin-use-hasn-t-yet-reached-south-dakota/article_e571555b-f1d8-59d3-b989-94289230a87d.html

mary mcculley
Guest

Junk for Junck? I like it.

steve kelly
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steve kelly

Despite cutbacks the IR reports on how vultures in the timber industry corrupt public officials. http://helenair.com/news/local/gov-bullock-nominates-m-acres-of-national-forests-for-restoration/article_db7f16f6-bedf-11e3-99b5-001a4bcf887a.html

Subsidize, privatize and deregulate our national forests for corporate profit. Sweet deal!

Matthew Koehler
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Matthew Koehler

Thanks for highlighting this Steve. Keep in mind that what Governor Bullock has just done, with the blessing of the timber industry and “collaborators” like Montana Trout Unlimited and Greater Yellowstone Coalition, is nominated pretty much all forested acres of these National Forests outside of designated Wilderness and a few roadless areas for more logging. ?? The public should also be aware that the map provided by Gov Bullock and reprinted by the media is very misleading when it states: “% of total forest land base considered for Priority Landscape Designation.” That means it’s the % of the TOTAL acres… Read more »

Mark Tokarski
Guest

Newspapers are deer in the headlight of technology, that’s all. That news model might be history, Twitter replacing it somehow. I am told that that service using hashtags puts you right on top of any event. But I sense in your post here that you are lamenting journalism as it used to be. There are no good old days there. It’s always been what fits on the back of advertising. Journalism, or reporting to us on what powerful people are doing, has always been constrained here in the land where everyone has free speech and the good sense not to… Read more »

The Polish Wolf
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The Polish Wolf

You don’t ‘sense’ anything – you have a speech you want to give (which you’ve given a dozen times before, I hope you’re just copy pasting, not wasting your time typing the same four comments over and over again) about the media, and you’re pretending Don said what you want him to say to justify giving that speech. This isn’t about lowering standards of journalism in America – if it was, that’s what the headline would be. It’s instead a story of how modern corporate structure and the financialization of industry has taken to rewarding people who are good not… Read more »

Mark Tokarski
Guest

Waiting for something.new in that comment. It’s tautology. You said what I said, and Don’t know it! There’s nothing new or interesting, but in typical PW hubristic fashion you seem to think you’ve got insight. Nah.

Here’s what’s funny, Spraky: If I said only one thing here in comments, that you and Don were as clever and insightful as you think you are, you’d never complain about my comments. You’d even think that I was insightful! I’d be doing guest spots!

You’re nothing but a couple of bloated egos. Too many participation ribbons, no actual accomplishments?

The Polish Wolf
Guest
The Polish Wolf

Read your comment again, Mark. It’s like nothing I said, or Don said. “. It’s always been what fits on the back of advertising.” That’s a passable description of what the media in general produces, but the point Don and I are making is that Lee is not even producing that. Mary Junck is getting paid hundreds of thousands of dollars, yet her company is failing to produce material that can turn a profit. She’s busy playing the game of rake in bonuses and walk away. The enormous role financial instruments and the financial industry play in corporate practice is… Read more »

Mark Tokarski
Guest

You are saying nothing different about American journalism that has been said a million times before. What makes you think it’s insightful? Private for-profit news gathering cannot operate against its own interest, and must serve advertisers and investors first. Lee is slowly lining up for asset stripping. The rats are chasing in while they can. Who cares? The company never offered anything better than the old copper collar days.

There is nothing new or different going on. Neither you or Don have offered anything new or original or insightful.

Mark Tokarski
Guest

Cashing in.

The Polish Wolf
Guest
The Polish Wolf

Again Mark, the media is only incidental to this conversation – it’s a question of corporate governance and behavior. And certainly Don’s not the first to notice the deification of finance at the expense of production (Krugman and DeLong have done so marvelously, I’d say), but he’s pointing out how it is visible in Helena. But let’s talk about media, Mark. Your basic claim is that media is unchanging – since the days of the copper kings, you say. Fine. Your other basic claim, fundamental to your belief system, is that the problem with media is that it is run… Read more »

Big Swede
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Big Swede

“Give the customer what he wants and he’ll beat a path to your door”-can’t remember author. In 1975 I was selling my first used car in the Billings Gazette classifies. In the description I wanted to put ps(power steering), pb(power brakes), ac(air conditioning), and at(automatic transmission). The clerk refused. They charged by the letter back then and any abbreviation was a loss of revenue. Fast forward to the middle eighties and a start up called “The Penny Saver” came into town. They accepted the shortened descriptions. The all powerful monopoly couldn’t stand this intrusion, they bought the owners out. Same… Read more »

Mark Tokarski
Guest

You are aware that Craigslist is not-for-profit, you damned socialist!

Big Swede
Guest
Big Swede

A 9 figure “Non-Profit”. “Craigslist’s main source of revenue is paid job ads in select cities—$75 per ad for the San Francisco Bay Area; $25 per ad for New York City, Los Angeles, San Diego, Boston, Seattle, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Philadelphia, Orange County (California) and Portland, Oregon—and paid broker apartment listings in New York City ($10 per ad). The company does not formally disclose financial or ownership information. Analysts and commentators have reported varying figures for its annual revenue, ranging from $10 million in 2004, $20 million in 2005, and $25 million in 2006 to possibly $150 million in 2007.[16][17][18]… Read more »

Mark Tokarski
Guest

I read that too.

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