Is Situation At Inquirer More Chicken Little Than Cloverfield? What A Difference Two Months Make
The latest blather emanating from Philadelphia Newspapers grand poobah Brian Tierney is that the Inquirer and Daily News need to cut expenses by 10 percent or else he and his investors will be in deep doo-doo with the banks that made his $562 million purchase possible.
So, of course, Tierney -- never a friend of organized labor -- is pointing his fingers at the union and telling them that they need to be a part of whatever draconian solution is agreed to. Forgive the unions if they're weary of this routine.
After all, it was Tierney who cut 17 percent of the newsroom staff in 2006 after threatening worse reductions if the unions didn't cave and give him a myriad of concesssions.
This is the same Tierney who was pumping his chest last April when circulation at the Inquirer inched up 0.6 percent, remarkable at a time when other big-city dailies were hemorrhaging readers.
“It’s about setting out an optimistic vision, it’s about focusing on quality in everything that we do—first and foremost journalistically,” Tierney told the Columbia Journalism Review.
As recently as November, weekday Inky circulation rose 2.3 percent, the largest increase of the 50-biggest newspapers, though Sunday circulation fell. Still, Tierney called the figures "better than I would have hoped."
So which Tierney are we to believe now? He has a long history of talking a good game, but he's given the unions no reason to trust him, and it doesn't appear they will start now.
Indeed, observers like Alan Mutter, who says it's up to newspaper employees to get creative and figure out ways to save money -- and while they're at it, don't kill the messenger -- miss the point.
Tierney and his ilk -- at papers in Minneapolis and San Jose, among others -- have engendered such a high level of animosity in the newsroom, not to mention advertising and circulation departments, where any hope of a collaborative solution is all but lost. So would you if you've been victimized by slash-and-burn methods of expense cutting.
True, it's not Tierney's fault that advertising is down and readership has followed suit. It's an epidemic that's gripped every newspaper. But when he looks to prop up his bottom line he needs to walk past the newsroom and search elsewhere. He's already shed a lot of the reasons people needed to buy his papers. Anything more, and Tierney might as well hand over the keys to the banks.
Instead of simply looking to the unions he despises, it's Tierney who's the one who should be creative. It's time to put all those years he spent as a flack to good use and spin his way out of this predicament.