Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Editor Drescher’s “Rah-rahs" Don't Help The N&O

McClatchy Watch recently posted: "Sacramento Bee editor says she 'feels an obligation' to report on McClatchy's woes -- but doesn't follow through."

The short of it: Sacbee executive editor for news Melanie Sill told readers: “Newspaper editors, including me, have felt obliged to report news of our companies' financial ups and downs, especially lately.” But McC Watch cites important recent McClatchy $$$ stories Sacbee’s failed to report.

Give the post a look and read down the interesting comment thread which includes a number of comments referencing the liberal/leftist Raleigh News & Observer. Here in full is one from an Anon who ID’s as a N&O journo. I follow Anon with a few of my comments:

Interesting. This must be SOP around the chain.

During a news meeting almost two weeks ago when the bad news (more job cuts, salary cuts and furloughs ahead) was given to the staff N&O exed John Drescher was asked when we were going to report to our readers just how bad things are and why the paper is getting so thin.

He said he thought "we were letting people know" and he was also going to write a Saturday column about it.

Well, for one thing we haven't really admitted to the public we might go belly up. We have skirted the issue.

There has been no in-depth story like there would be if a local television station or other high profile business was in this much trouble.

And there is yet to be a column from Drescher...in fact his last column about the paper was on Jan.24 entitled "Things looking up for the N&O".

I would hate to see what it takes for things to be looking grim if he thinks things are looking up.

But what do you expect; he and Melly were peas in a pod.
My comments:

As many of you know, before Melanie Sill moved to the same position at Sacbee, she was executive editor for news at the N&O at the same time that Drescher, who succeeded her as N&O exec editor was managing editor.

Both editors have repeatedly and at length declared their confidence in their papers' current strengths and bright futures.

Here’s Drescher’s "Things looking up for the N&O" column which ran Jan. 24, 2009.

The “rah-rah” claims Drescher made in that column for the N&O’s current financial condition and its future might be excused as excessive cheerleading brought on by anticipation of the upcoming Super Bowl except for one thing: Drescher’s cheerleading is nothing new.

Here are a few excerpts from Drescher's Mar. 30, 2008 column,"The N&O is winning new readers," which begins:
More people are reading The N&O than ever.

In fact, depending on how you slice the numbers, our growth in readership is faster than the growth in population in the Triangle -- one of the fastest-growing areas in the country.


How can that be?

Aren't newspapers dying?

It's true that revenue is down for most of us.

But for many newspapers, including this one, readership is up.

When you add our paid print circulation to our online readership, more people than ever are reading The N&O. By far. (
As Drescher knows but doesn't tell readers, advertisers won't pay for "online readership" anything close to what they've been willing to pay for print readers.)

Our future depends on our ability to sustain this growth -- and for advertisers to recognize that more people than ever are turning to The N&O for news, sports, business, features and commentary. . . .

But any way you look at it, our readership is growing. More people will read The N&O today than read us yesterday. And even more people will read us tomorrow. . . .
Drescher's columns and N&O news stories have failed to tell readers the N&O's parent McClatchy's stock has, in the last 5 yeers, fallen from a price in the mid-70s to penny stock status.

Or that as the company's revenues have shrunk, so have its chances of servicing its more then $2 billion in debt.

Or that McClatchy's bonds are rated "junk" and that many financial analysts are predicting bankruptcy for the company.

There's something else extremely important to newspaper advertisers that I've never seen Drescher or Sill mention.

It's this: In recent years it's not just circulations that have dropped; the average amount of time readers report they spend looking through a newspaper has dropped from just over 40 minutes to 18.

Drescher's "rah-rahs" aren't believed by advertisers, his staff or informed readers.

It may be McClatchy policy that forces Drescher to pump out "rah-rahs." If that's so, it's one more example of McClatchy's top management's disregard for the truth and readers.

Whatever the reason for them, Drescher's "rah-rahs" aren't helping the N&O.