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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

LOCAL NEWS

The economic problems of America's daily newspapers have been discussed here and, more extensively, in the business media. How cutbacks impact local communities reached a new level of attention last week, when a Long Beach councilwoman raised the possibility that the city might remove its advertising from the Press-Telegram.

I think this is so important I'm running the paper's story below, without further comment:

The Long Beach City Council said Tuesday night that it may consider removing city-paid ads from the local daily newspaper, the Long Beach Press-Telegram.

City council member Tonia Reyes Uranga said the city spends $100,000 in advertisements ran through the Press-Telegram, and that she would like to see where that money is going. The council's concerns come after the Denver-based MediaNews Group, owner of the Press-Telegram since 1997, recently consolidated some of the Press-Telegram's facilities and staff with those of the Torrance Daily Breeze, also owned by MediaNews. Press-Telegram staff who were not immediately laid off were told to go to the Daily Breeze office Saturday for interviews for their same positions.

Many Press-Telegram employees and community members were present at the vote, and held colorful signs saying, "Save Our Jobs" and "Don't Take the Local Out Of Local News."

Long Beach, the fifth-largest city in California and one with a population of nearly 500,000, will now have a paper where many of its staff members, including some management, is based out of the city it covers. The council said it fears Long Beach will lose good local coverage with portions of the Press-Telegram based elsewhere. The portions of the paper that have been moved to Torrance include the copy and design desks. Reporters, photographers, city editors, advertising personnel and Executive Editor Rich Archbold will stay working out of Long Beach in the Press-Telegram's downtown offices.

The Daily Breeze and Press-Telegram will be worked on in Torrance by a single copy desk, according to Austin Lewis, a Press-Telegram copy editor and former managing editor of the Daily Forty-Niner. "It's like one staff putting out two papers. It's not like the Press-Telegram is moving its copy desk to Torrance," Lewis said.

"We need you. We need the hometown news," said Vice Mayor Bonnie Lowenthal about the Press-Telegram at the city council meeting. The vice mayor also said she will be working with CSULB President F. King Alexander "to design a forum with our help to explore local journalism. We need to put heads and hearts together to understand changes in journalism."

Council members Dee Andrews and Patrick O'Donnell said they worked for the Press-Telegram as children. Andrews, who worked at the paper at age seven to deliver papers, said he is with the publication 100 percent. O'Donnell also said the Press-Telegram is the first thing he reads in the morning, and that he is happy to see people standing up and making journalism a priority.

Council member Rae Gabelich said she has watched the demise of the Press-Telegram and there are more ads than news. "Our business is suffering. Every day we have declining revenue," Archbold said. He reassured the council that the Press-Telegram was "here to stay," adding that he would be on the phone a lot more because of the changes. Archbold also said that not one reporter was cut and that he would love to hire more and have a bigger budget, but that they were just not feasible.

Many people at the meeting spoke against the recent changes and MediaNews' CEO Dean Singleton. "(The) loss of the managing publisher is the latest slap in the face," said Joe Segura, union steward of the Southern California Media Guild/CWA Local 9400, in reference to the losses of both the Press-Telegram publisher and managing editor. "We need a local managing editor. We need a local publisher to help protect local coverage."
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Links:

My Arizona Republic notebook last Friday, leading with Ryan Newman:
http://www.azcentral.com/sports/speed/articles/0306racingnb0307.html

Jeff Gordon story from last week's testing at Phoenix International Raceway:
http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/0308swv-nascar0308.html

My new Business of Racing video commentary on 1320tv.com, on the "new" John Force:
http://www.1320tv.com/dialed_in/article11.asp?vid=dialed_in/bor_force_phoenix&title=Michael%20Knight%27s%20commentary%20on%20John%20Force%27s%20return%20to%20Gainesville,%20new%20mission


[ more next Tuesday . . . ]