Nearly the entire newspaper industry is in turmoil – McClatchy Newspapers recently sold 10 acres of land in Florida that was more valuable than the company's stock, according to Bloomberg.com. The land sold for $236 million; the value of the company’s stock was $234.7 million on May 27. According to Bloomberg.com, McClatchy’s stock has lost 94 percent of its value in the past five years.
That sounds very familiar to me.
Media giant Gannett has taken actions reminiscent of my experience at Sun-Times Media, requiring employees to take quarterly furloughs, cutting 20 percent of its workforce in the past three years and consolidating some of its newspaper design operations. So, instead of having a production staff that edits and designs and produces its own paper, Gannett plans to have regional hubs serving groups of newspapers in multiple states.
An aside: Maybe Gannett will do it right. Copley Newspapers tried to do it with The Courier-News and the other daily newspapers it eventually sold to the company now known as Sun-Times Media. Copley's effort was a miserable failure, resulting in embarrassing mistakes, stifled creativity and a homogenized design that failed to help the individual papers stand out much in their own communities. Ultimately, it only helped accelerate the loss of circulation.
Sun-Times Media, which dismantled the failed Copley experiment when it took over 10 or 11 years ago, decided it could do Copley one better when it chose to repeat the blunder in 2008. Company leaders who initiated the move said the Copley mistakes would not be repeated. Of course, those leaders had not lived through the creation of Copley's centralization monster. In that regard, they contributed yet another piece of anecdotal evidence in favor of philosopher and poet George Santayana's often misquoted expression, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
They increased the magnitude of the mistake by adding expectations regarding the use of new media but then failed to put in place any kind of plan to do so – if there was such a plan, it was never clearly communicated to the folks in the trenches. There were some of us who did have at least some of the vision for the changes that needed to take place, but we had no authority to implement those changes or to direct others to do so. As a result, at least in the West Division offices in Aurora, there was a group of people, each of whom held his or her own vision of how they believed the company should be run, but no one rallying the troops under a single, united vision.
Back on point: But where deserts lie, some see a promised land.
OK – there are several who might take exception to any suggestion that they have had any part in cultivating my taste (or lack thereof) in puns. To be fair, I'm quirky: When I was a kid with an aquarium, I was the one who liked ugly fish; as an adult, I still like ugly fish – and I like bad puns, too.
Puns are an occupational hazard, however, and whether they want to admit it or not, they have encouraged that.