Media companies operate in a highly competitive and often ruthless environment.
A take-no-prisoners approach to wheeling and dealing is commonplace. Consider the recent acquisition by the Tampa Bay Times of the Tampa Tribune. The Times bought the Tribune and then shut the paper down after a 123-year run on the other side of the Florida bay.
According to the New York Times article attached here, former Tribune employees felt betrayed by the takeover. They didn’t see it coming.
Well, let me be among the many individuals who’ve worked in print journalism to offer this bit of solace, not that it will soothe the pain: It could’ve been worse.
I worked for nearly 11 years for the Hearst Corporation, which has exhibited its own heavy hand in acquiring competing newspapers. Although I wasn’t affected directly by Hearst’s takeover strategy, I know many former colleagues who were.
In the late 1980s, Hearst was operating the San Antonio Light, which was in the midst of a nasty newspaper “war” with the San Antonio Express-News, which was owned by Rupert Murdoch’s company. Hearst decided to take the offensive, so the company moved the publisher of the Beaumont Enterprise, where I worked at the time, to San Antonio to take over as head man at the Light; I believe it was in 1988.
The new Light publisher — George B. Irish — was given the task of preparing for a serious corporate takeover.
Hearst decided to purchase Express-News — and then it promptly shut down the Light. Yes, the company “rewarded” its loyal employees, who had fought the good fight against the E-N, by giving almost all of them their pink slips.
A handful of Light hands were kept on. Most were let go. If memory serves, they were given severance packages. Still, the pain was palpable.
In 1995, Hearst went after the Houston Post. It purchased that paper, closed it down and left the state’s largest city with just one paper, the Chronicle, which Hearst already owned.
It’s a tough world, man.
I feel for my former colleagues in Tampa. Please know this: You are not alone.