Monday, January 21, 2008

James O'Shea's remarks on being fired from the LA Times

This is a terrific piece in the WSJ from the heart - and worth a read. Here is the core about the future of publishing - it is a brave statement from one man against the negative trends the industry faces today.

"One thing I want put on the record, though, is that I disagree completely with the way that this company allocates resources to its newsrooms, not just here but at Tribune newspapers all around the country. That system is at the core of my disagreements with David. I think the current system relies too heavily on voodoo economics and not enough on the creativity and resourcefulness of journalists. We journalists have our faults, but we also have a lot to offer. Too often we've been dismissed as budgetary adolescents who can't be trusted to conserve our resources. That is wrong. Journalists and not accountants should seize responsibility for the financial health of our newspapers so journalists can make decisions about the size of our staffs and how much news remains in our papers and web sites.

The biggest challenge we face -- journalists and dedicated newspaper folks alike -- is to overcome this pervasive culture of defeat, the psychology of surrender that accepts decline as inevitable. This mindset plagues our business and threatens our newspapers and livelihoods. I believe that when Sam Zell understands how asinine the current budgetary system is, he will change it for the better, because he is a smart businessman and he understands the value of wise investment. A dollar's worth of smart investment is worth far more than a barrel of budget cuts.

This company, indeed, this industry, must invest more in solid, relevant journalism. We must integrate the speed and agility of the Internet with the news judgment and editorial values of the newsroom, values that are more important than ever as the hunger for news continues to surge and gossip pollutes the information atmosphere. Even in hard times, wise investment -- not retraction -- is the long-term answer to the industry's troubles. We must build on our core strength, which is good, accurate reporting, the backbone of solid journalism, the public service that helps people make the right decisions about their increasingly complex lives. We must tell people what they want to know and -- even more important -- what they might not want to know, about war, politics, economics, schools, corruption and the thoughts and deeds of those who lead us. We need to tell readers more about Barack Obama and less about Britney Spears. We must give a voice to those who can't afford a megaphone. And we must become more than a marketing slogan. I know I can rely on this newsroom to do this. "

And then the Wall St Journal's further editorial on the story Why the Los Angeles Times Can't Keep an Editor and the challenges publishing faces - including the grim statistics

The latest drama at the Los Angeles Times is the story facing the broader newspaper industry. As circulation drops and ad revenues deteriorate, newspaper companies are struggling to figure out how to stay afloat. Third-quarter net income at Tribune Co., for instance, declined 7% as newspaper advertising revenue fell sharply. At the company's newspapers, which also include the Chicago Tribune, Long Island's Newsday and the Baltimore Sun, revenue declined 7% to $871 million. Ad revenue fell 9%, reflecting declines of 6% in retail ad revenue and 18% in classified revenue. Print ad revenue was down at the Times about 10% last year, or about $80 million, Mr. Hiller said.

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