Saturday, May 03, 2008

The end is near

Looking for the Journal Register Company on the New York Stock Exchange? Don’t bother. Wondering when that little symbol might pop up again? It won’t. Sunday paper feeling a little lighter these days? It may very well be.

Folks, the end of days are nearing for the insidious overlords of JRC, the corporate raiders that have decimated both the Saratogian and its sister paper, the Troy Record. After announcing they wouldn’t bother challenging the delisting of their abysmally performing stock last month, JRC officials announced this week the company will no longer be publically traded.

In other words, grab your parachutes, boys; this plane is going down. Don’t have one? Well, too bad.

JRC’s crack team of corporate swindlers filed the forms with the feds Thursday, indicating the company no longer intends to report its earnings and losses to the federal Security Exchange Commission. In a remarkably upbeat news release, they claimed the measure would save them the capital they were expending on such meddlesome things as accountants, administrators and other business executives needed to operate a publically traded company.

“The board of directors believes that deregistration will result in significant savings to the [JRC], permit management to focus more completely on the Company’s business operations and enable the Company to redeploy resources currently devoted to compliance reporting,” the news release stated.

Translation: we’re continuing to pillage the company, but really can’t do it as efficiently with the feds watching over us. Once we’re private, we can finish gutting all of our holdings and squirreling money away in off-shore accounts for when the company finally files for bankruptcy protection.

But the adept spin doctors at JRC put a much sweeter gloss of sugar on the whole affair. Instead, they claim the privatization of the company will help them rebound. And surely they’ll still report to the stockholders “through press releases” and annual “independent” audits.

Best of all, JRC plans to maintain the “corporate governance improvements” made in recent years. You know, the same “improvements” that led to their stock plummeting from $12.18 to less than a quarter in two years. And this company has the utter gall to call itself “a leading U.S. media company.”

Sources have indicated JRC will ratchet up its penny pinching –or shall we say corporate pillaging –starting Sunday. Apparently, the New Haven Register mysteriously stopped including the standard television programming guide in its Sunday paper last month. This lead to a subscription revolt at the Register, which is often considered the crown jewel of JRC’s dwindling assets. Apparently, a similar phenomenon is expected to occur with the Saratogian this weekend, in spite of the paper actually gaining more than 100 subscribers for their Sunday edition.

As much as this blog has been devoted to prodding the Saratogian’s staff into going the extra mile in the face of their JRC overlords, these recent developments have thrust the poor pawns into an untenable situation with their livelihood. The fact that they still come to work each week is either an act of extreme courage, extreme drunkenness or abject stupidity; perhaps a smattering of all three. They are to be commended, and the bastards who put them in this situation should be brutally flogged until they resemble something passed through a meat grinder.

Nonetheless, JRC’s bow has official dipped beneath the turbulent seas of newspaper journalism. This happened after years of deliberate corporate mismanagement filled the company’s proverbial hull with water. There is no turning back now, the ship is going down. Not to worry. There are enough life jackets for the women and children. Rather, there are enough for one woman, whose column appears in the Life section most Saturdays. When the everything is said and done, chances are pretty good she’ll be among a sparse few sitting high and dry.

21 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, JRC sucks, but the one constant -- and the biggest -- problem at that paper for 30-plus years is Lombardo. She can't write, edit, design pages or lead a young staff worth a shit. While her 22-year-old reporters are flying blind without any leadership on the news desk, she's actually teaching journalism at Albany. The end of the world must be near. People who continue to read that rag can only hope someone new will take over for JRC and they will realize what a clueless bafoon Lombardo is.

2:15 PM  
Blogger Horatio Alger said...

2:15,

Truer word were ne'er spoken...

2:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If there was truly justice in this world Lombardo’s entire retirement package would be in JRC stock.

Then when the building and parking lot is sold reparations be paid to the surviving owners or their heirs and descendents such as Willie Lum, who had their property stolen through Eminent Domain and Urban Renewal in the first place to give the Saratogian that empty parking lot. That my friends would be justice

2:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The end might be closing in on JRC, but just how long a death grip do you think they'll keep on The Saratogian? From what I hear, the paper still ends up making money for the company, and it IS a viable name.

If you're holding out hope on the product turning itself around once the JRC shackles are lifted though, I gotta say we're all fooling ourselves. The paper is what it is: a small local daily in an already crowded market, in a business that's dying across the board (despite "successes" recently trumpeted in the TU). How can it compete? Seriously - I'm interested in your thoughts.

8:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Many things can be laid on JRC doorstep the raping of Willie Lum is not one of them. A long time ago the owners of the Saratogian were able to steal the land by purchasing it from urban renewal who stole it from hapless people like Willie Lum without so much as a “How do you do I’m here to ruin you”

To this day the most frightening were I’ve ever heard was” I’m from the government and I’m here to help”

The fact McTygue was the only one Politian who doesn’t pander to the Saratogian and expressed the desire to reopen the issue though short-lived was refreshing

6:07 AM  
Blogger Horatio Alger said...

8:35,

You are correct in your assumption. Chances are pretty good the Saratogian will remain a fetid little paper under a new company. JRC is not alone in its mistreatment of small dailies. Take for example the nearby Bennington Banner, a similar sized paper that has long wallowed under the crushing pressure of Dean Singleton’s penny-pinching ways. But even Singleton’s Media News empire would be a welcome change from the failures of JRC, a company that quite literally has no idea how to run a quality paper.

From what I understand, it’s true somehow the Saratogian has remained among the few assets of JRC still making money. This is an extraordinary example of how vibrant the market is in Saratoga County: Larger papers from Albany, Schenectady and Glens Falls can all maintain robust bureaus in the city, without squeezing the wayward JRC publication out of existence. It’s the only municipality outside of the Capital where four papers maintain offices and a marked presence.

Time and time again, I’ve heard people rant on about how the other three papers serve the public better. I’ve watched the thorough mismanagement of that paper span more than two decades now. Still, it makes money. Some of it has to do with the name itself and the fact that people still associate it with being the so-called hometown paper, even though many of the news headlines are regurgitated from other sources.

Yet there’s an important part of the market the Saratogian could fill and occasionally does. It’s the fringe markets surrounding the Spa City, where there is little if any coverage. These are growing towns such as Corinth, Milton and even Malta, but also more rural areas such as Edinburg, Galaway and Greenfield. Not much happens in the later three, but there are stories to be had there. A good journalist will find stories wherever he or she is assigned.

In my opinion, these are the areas The Saratogian should cultivate, in addition to its city coverage. Strange enough, it wouldn’t even be that difficult for someone interested in actually managing the paper. Freelancers are a dime a dozen and require no benefits. All of these areas could be covered by dedicated ‘citizen journalists,’ provided an editor is there to guide them through the process and refine their work. Also, success in today’s media is largely reliant on bringing something new to the table. The rise of the blogosphere is in direct response to the failings of print media (hence the mantra of this scrolling). The fact that print sources are lumbering, contain denuded writing and overall lack edge is a major turnoff.

At one point in the history, daily and weekly columns filled this void; writers offering color commentary not mashed through the filter of so-called balance. It’s something Americans live for: to hear someone else subjectively analyze things. On television, you see it all the time: color commentators in sports, so-called expert analysts on the cable news networks, even the self-reflective commentary offered during reality-television shows (i.e. this is what I was thinking at this time). It’s the bread-and-butter of 21st century society. Edgy writers such as the Gazette's Strock and the TU's LeBraun also draw readers by the droves, even though I frankly think both columnists are a bit out of touch with the world today.

But newspapers like the Saratogian have largely clipped local commentary down to wire copy, syndicated columnists and occasional editorials (when Babs is feeling her oats). And often the commentary is fickle; more of a regurgitation of what the writer thinks everyone wants to hear, or a retelling of the story. With few exceptions, local editorials are a sad excuse these days and not one anyone would fork over 50 cents to read.

These are just a few examples of areas the media could reinvent itself. Still, the problem with the Saratogian and daily newspapers in general is their inability to affect any real change. The industry as a whole is in the clutches of editors like Lombardo, who lack vision for the future or even the desire to try something new; to go out on a ledge for once. It’s a simple business model: if what you’re doing is failing, you must try something new. Yet trying something new is not among the tricks in the respective bags of today’s editors and publishers.

As it stands now, American journalism is dying a miserable and agonizing death. It’s sort of like watching a cancer patient slowly fade away after waving off chemo. The sad part is that the cancer afflicting today’s media could be isolated, just there are too many ‘doctors’ –like the corporate bloodsuckers at JRC— making their livelihoods off that cancer.

7:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Freelancers are a dime a dozen and require no benefits." I believe that is a huge part of the Saratogian's problem. They hire freelancers from the area that promote their drinking and party buddies or their own families. We were well and truly screwed by one of these freelancers and who do you complain to when there is no one accountable?

10:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

1:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Horatio, I enjoyed reading your well thought out opinion.

Yet, I am truly offended by the disparity of Mr. Lum in anon 1:24. My father flew many missions over the “hump” during the Big War and often time found aid from the Chinese in order to get back home so that we can be here to write this dribble today. We are all foreigners.

Racism is not about patriotism and will not disappear by censuring it from the posts, but it has no value on these blogs – in any form. It is also a cancer.

3:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

4:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regarding freelancers and edgy writers which I happen to be. Newspapers are generally not interested in publishing writers the public would be interested in. Heaven forbid, people might be motivated to think and demand change. Think about it, do you think someone like Lombardo and others are going to hire writers who are more skilled than them? Think again.

6:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

6:45 AM  
Blogger Horatio Alger said...

3:08,

I agree. I've decided to shit-can the three posts that have basically ignored the topic and jumped back to this political graffiti, which isn't well-thought out or humorous. If the authors can make a case otherwise, I'll repost them.

Like I said in another thread, I'm considering setting up a semi-moderated 'graffiti wall' for these folks to duke it out. While it's amusing at times to hear these twisted minds at work, I've really grown sick of being a dumping ground for them. I haven't invested nearly 20 hours a week for the last two years to watch a bunch of folks who act like they're a primordial species still swinging around trees and throwing dung at one another.

6:34,

We pretty much agree. I'm offering a solution for the woes of newsprint;. I never said anyone in power would listen. Especially not Lombardo, who now operates in cruise control instead of giving any sort of thought to her paper.

The group of shills now leading today's media were the same clowns that dress $20,000-a-year reporters in business attire and call the job white-collar. They've removed the gritty edge of journalism and sold it to this sort of milquetoast writing, devoid of inspiration and spirit. In my opinion, there will be a fundamental shift at the top,
once they finally move aside and hand the reins over to the new generation. Stay tuned, it's going to happen soon.


10:12,

Free-lancing is a difficult gig for both the writer and the editor, but it doesn't mean it can't be successful. In every editor-writer relationship, there has to be a degree of trust. There also has to be a degree of oversight, so that a freelancer isn't simply isn't pandering to a select group. The bottom line is the editor beneath masthead is responsible for whatever makes it into print. The editor is responsible for vetting a freelancer and ensuring they're going to bring back a quality product.

Frankly, I'd much rather see a full-time writer stationed in the hinterlands and covering them in a roving fashion. But absent the budget for that, freelancers would have to do. I think the coverage that could be gained is more valuable than the risks the paper would take.

7:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with you on both comments about freelancers for the outlying areas as well as hiring full-time staffers at The Saratogian.
Unfortunately, neither of them will ever occur.
The newspaper has a history of burning out it's freelancers, not from running them ragged, but taking 90 days to pay them or not pay them at all.
Forget about a staffer to cover the 'burgs, that's another body JRC won't pony up with.
Why hire someone for content when what we really need to two more full time advertising salespeople to fill the 12-page Monday edition.

8:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

what I don't understand is how do people like lombardo get jobs in the first place, I agree with the person who wrote that she can't write, edit or do page layout and in the recent past the saratogian had more typos than a chinese take-out menu. who hired her and why?
on another note, the post star used to be a great newspaper but Ken Tingley alienated all his good writers and those people smartly moved on. whats a good writer to do?

11:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The stort of Mr. Lum is one of the tragedies of Saratoga Springs history. Mr. Lum fled the Communists in mainland China, slaved in New York’s Chinatown until he had saved enough money to open up a small restaurant in what is now the Saratogian’s underused parking lot. Willie for many of us was our first taste of what was then exotic Chinese food. Willie was always kind never turned away a town drunk looking for a free meal {I like to see burger Brinks due that today} and was one of those Saratoga characters who made Saratoga interesting and fun.

In a perfect world Mr Lum would have been recognized by the city for his contribution to Saratoga.

He wasn’t, Urban Renewal took his land through eminent domain


In a better world the Press would have been sympatric and tried to help a simple working man.

It wasn’t, the Saratogian was more then happy to carry the rope for the Lynching of his land.

So what do we have today an empty parking lot that happens to be the richest holding in JRC rapidly diminishing empire all at the expense of Mr Lum. So don’t bitch to me when McTygue threw this history in the papers face, he’s the only one telling the truth about there ill gotten gain. I only wish Willie had lived long enough to see the paper fold like a cheap tent.

2:00 PM  
Anonymous Kyle York said...

Fearless HA-

May your "Throwing Dung"
be "Thoroughly Democratic."

-Write On
...Moderate until you puke,
Kyle

11:16 PM  
Anonymous Kyle York said...

ANON 2:00

Thank you for a powerful and painfully Human story. Honest.
You should be proud of all the good you've seen and the horror you witnessed. It would be nice to know your name...but I thank you for your anonymous tale of humanity, kindness, and corporate greed-- The Truth Told Well. And our "Idyllic Town" seen 20/20.

-Kyle York

1:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

“I don't understand is how do people like lombardo get jobs in the first place”


The oldest way in the books.


She hitched her wagon to Dick Brooks who was a senior experienced reporter at the paper.

After a notorious fling with the married Brooks she was able to get a foot in the door with management and claw her way to the top. The only justice in this sordid tale is the fact that after gaining control at the paper she fired her former paramour Brooks.

4:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not against using freelancers--I do a lot of that myself--but this is a case of "you get what you pay for." The Saratogian's quality or lack thereof is a direct result of not paying for quality reporters and editors. The pay is so bad that promising young reporters don't stay around long enough to get to know their beats. Whenever I know the background of a story I see huge holes in the coverage and often outright errors. The same goes for freelancers--pay a few good ones well and you'll get better stories that sell newspapers that advertisers want to be seen in.

7:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

yes I agree with you on the fact that editors dont want to pay good writers. they really expect good writers to bust their ass for nothing and constantly bitch about not having money in their "budget" to pay them. yeah right. meanwhile editors do no brunt work and get a fat salary and take all the credit.

10:56 AM  

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