Tuesday, April 03, 2012

The decline and fall of the Louisville Courier-Journal

The Monday Afternoon Massacre claimed 26 casualties as the Louisville Courier-Journal announced yesterday that it was letting 26 more employees go.

"Buy-outs," they call it (these are people who know how to do things with words, that's for sure).

Also, firing squad executions will also now be called "target practice," detonations of large explosives will be called "chemical reactions," and major forest fires will be called "cook outs." Just so you know.

Probably the most significant departure will be Keith Runyon, who worked for the paper for 46 years, starting when he was 18 years old. In fact, the "buy-outs" all targeted long-time employees. This practice of letting go employees who have worked at the paper for many years is called "company loyalty."

I've said this before, but as liberal (and sometimes ruthlessly and unethically so) as the CJ has been over the years, I think the demise of the big city papers is a bad thing. A community paper is one of the things that helps a community be a community. The decline and fall of these papers is a sign of the deterioration of community, which is never a good thing.

Can you just imagine the old days, when the editors met in one big, smoke-filled room, with a window looking out on the city, discussing and arguing the next big editorial? I was an editorials editor on my college daily paper with a circulation of 20,000. The energy and excitement of these sessions was infectious. I can just imagine what there were like on a newspaper the likes of the CJ.

Those were the glory days of journalism.

With the "buy-outs" of Runyon and Steve Ford, there is only one editor of the editorial page left. It must seem like a ghost town.

It seems to me that part of the problem with papers like the CJ--along with the technology revolution itself, the biggest problem--was the purchase of the paper by a syndicate in 1986. I have heard (I don't know that it's true) that the CJ actually makes money--it's many of the other papers owned by Gannett that are the money holes. If that is true, then the CJ is being cannibalized by the very company that owns it.

The Binghams, who had owned it since 1918 were Kentuckians. But once a newspaper is run by the out-of-towners, the decisions made regarding the paper are not made in the interest of the paper; they're made in the interest of the syndicate.

This process of slow death the CJ is experiencing is called "restructuring."

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