Seventeen more editorial staffers were let go by the Chicago Sun-Times last week, in a bloodletting that was characterized by Michael Miner as a relief that things weren't worse. What wasn't so bad, after all, about telephone calls to 17 editorial staff members, telling them that they were being let go?
Over at OpEdNews.com Martha Rosenberg wondered what had happened to Chicago's tradition of reading newspapers. She must take a different train than I do, as she describes cell phones and the personal angst of twenty-somethings. All I see are MP3 players and Red Eye on my commute.
But I digress. As bad as I feel for the released editorial employees at the Southtown/ Star, LA Times, former Pioneer Press and soon at the Chicago Tribune too, where is the discussion of the others let go? If the Internet crisis has proved anything to me, it is that writers do not earn revenues. They earn readers, and those readers are migrating to other news sources.
But we live in a vacuum.
If the newspapers are releasing newspaper advertising sales people, it is not obvious from the local news. Consider the heft of the Chicago Tribune in the day. Free standing inserts, help wanted ads, real estate ads, ad infinitum it seemed. And at the Sun-Times what about those skilled single-copy circulation people, the ones that put salespeople on every corner? Zero coverage.
There's not much ever written about these people. I guess they don't count. Last year the Sun-Times Media Group contracted with the Chicago Tribune for much of its distribution. Read the company's 10-K here. It is part of a plan to reduce operating expenses by $50 million this year. Yet, the company lost $194 million in continuing operations last quarter. It closed distribution centers, closed printing centers, closed offices. That euphemism means people were put out of work at one of the most visible local companies. Yet outside the 17 staffers let go last week and the 18 let go before that how many people are left over there? What happened outside the editorial offices? And, what good is just $50 million?
Back in the day, which wasn't that long ago at the Chicago Sun-Times, everyone worked in the same building. Editorial was on four, the advertising department had offices on one, the truck drivers and printers were somewhere on one down that long corridor to Billy Goats. Now the Sun-Times journalists are at 350 N Orleans, the press guys are on Ashland somewhere with the drivers and god knows where the Ad department went.
The escalator, the famous escalator shut down to save pennies by David Radler, was once a meeting place for people from all the departments of the Sun-Times. I doubt they ever meet as a group. I doubt the journalists understand how their fates are intertwined with that of the pressman and the truck driver.
And the Ad sales people? Please. There's a Chinese wall between editorial and advertising. Editorial has always kept its distance from those people.