John and Dathel Georges are trying to redefine the term “cutthroat” as it applies to describing media purchases.
The couple that owns the New Orleans Advocate has just purchased the once-might New Orleans Times-Picayune — and has laid off the entire Times-Picayune staff! All of ’em are gone, or will be gone soon.
This is the way it has become, it seems, in the world of print media.
The Times-Picayune once was the newspaper of record for The Big Easy. It became a media powerhouse, reporting on the ravages brought by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Then social media, the Internet and cable news began taking its toll. The T-P reduced its publication schedule to three days a week. Its circulation plummeted. As did its ad revenue.
The Advocate continued on. It became the scrappy alternative the Newhouse family’s once-formidable media presence.
Now the Advocate — owned by Mr. and Mrs. Georges — has taken over the T-P. It will restore its seven-day-a-week publishing schedule.
The T-P staff, though, won’t be part of the story.
Oh, my, this story hurts.
Sadly, though, it is just yet another example of how media companies operate. I once worked for a company, Morris Communications, that made a ton of bad business decisions at the top of the chain of command. When the company’s initiatives failed to bear sufficient fruit, the execs at the top decided to “punish” the staff by invoking pay cuts across the board and eliminating the company match toward staffers’ retirement accounts.
I also worked for another media group, the Hearst Corporation, that around 1988 decided to settle a major newspaper war in San Antonio. Hearst owned the San Antonio Light, which was battling with the Rupert Murdoch-owned Express-News. Hearst then purchased the Express-News.
However, Hearst then extended its “thanks” and expressions of gratitude for the battle fought by its Light staff by closing the Light and laying off its employees.
What’s about to happen in New Orleans, therefore, is not a newly contrived event. It’s happened many times before in the media business. It doesn’t make it any less disgraceful or dispiriting.
Working in the media world these days is tough, man!
I am so glad, delighted and relieved, to be free of that pressure.