Welcome, Danny Schechter readers, who may be looking for my blog item on an important Internet freedom-of-speech issue that we were confronted with during our time in Kazakhstan at the Eurasian Media Forum. The News Dissector, ever more diligent than I am, has already weighed in. I expect to have something up tomorrow morning.
Adam Reilly provides the details of cutbacks at the Phoenix newspapers and related media properties — six layoffs (two in editorial), and some pretty significant salary cuts. According to a memo from Stephen Mindich, the chairman, CEO and publisher, the larger salary cuts are reserved for higher-paid employees, which is the way a company ought to be run. (Mindich and Reilly seem to be saying two different things about the percentages, but there may be a nuance that I’m missing.)
Having worked at the Phoenix for more than 14 years, I know how bad Mindich must feel about this. The man is simply the most talented and dogged media executive in Boston, having created the Phoenix, WFNX Radio (101.7 FM) and several other properties literally out of nothing starting in 1966. In addition, he is a person of great integrity and loyalty.
Mindich attributes the Phoenix’s problems almost entirely to the recession, and predicts a recovery down the road, writing:
Like so many other companies in and out of the media business, we’re in a tough spot. But I have every faith in the future. I have no doubt that we have the collective ability to out think our competition and out last these challenging circumstances. Companies that succeed today will be in an extraordinary position tomorrow; we intend and expect to be one of those companies.
Media Nation extends its best wishes to everyone at the Phoenix.
I’m writing from Almaty, Kazakhstan, where I’m taking part in the annual Eurasian Media Forum. I’ve got a pretty good Internet connection, but not sure about how much blogging I’ll be able to do. Among other things, I did not bring an electric-power converter, and I’m not sure if I’ll be able to get one.
Update: Borrowed an adapter. Life is good.
The categories have been changed around a bit since last year. This time I’m in the category of “Best Commentary — Digital,” along with Eric Alterman of the Center for American Progress, Megan Garber of the Columbia Journalism Review, Rachel Sklar of the Huffington Post, Joe Strupp of Editor & Publisher and Clive Thompson of Wired.
The awards will be presented in New York City sometime in June.
The New York Times Co.’s demand that the Boston Globe’s unions come up with $20 million in concessions may have gotten a boost this morning, as the company reported that advertising revenues at its New England Media Group — the Globe, Boston.com and the Worcester Telegram & Gazette — are down 31.6 percent.
According to the Times Co.’s latest filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, advertising revenues at the New England group for the first quarter of 2009 were a shade under $55.7 million. Overall, revenues for the group were nearly $104.5 million, a drop of 20.6 percent from the first quarter of 2008.
Though the Times Co. does not break out separate numbers for the Worcester paper, they are thought to be a small proportion of the New England group’s overall income and expenses.
One interesting aspect of the report is that the Globe does not stand out as a particular drag on the company. Ad revenues are down 27.3 percent at the New York Times Media Group (the Times and NYTimes.com) and 29.3 percent at the Regional Media Group, which comprises smaller papers, mainly in the South.
Yes, things are worse in New England, but not by that much. So if folks at the Globe are inclined to feel that New York is picking on them, this may give them some ammunition.
Overall, this is pretty ugly. The Times Co. lost $74.5 million during the first quarter, compared to just $335,000 a year ago. Times Co. CEO Janet Robinson predicts a miserable second quarter as well.
“In time, however, we believe that the economy will grow and the advertising market will improve,” Robinson said in a prepared statement, according to the Associated Press. “While we are looking forward to that day, we are not waiting for it.”
In my latest for The Guardian, I gather together some thoughts on why newspapers can’t charge for online content.
I’m leaving tomorrow for Almaty, Kazakhstan, where I’ll be taking part in the annual Eurasian Media Forum.
A lot of interesting people are going to be on hand, including former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert, gadfly British parliamentarian George Galloway, former congressman Harold Ford, Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele, former ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and longtime friend of Media Nation Danny Schechter of Globalvision and the Media Channel.
I’ll be running a panel called “Traditional Media in Crisis?” and taking part in another called “The Booming Blogosphere.”
This is a big deal for Kazakhstan. The president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, will open the conference on Thursday morning, and the chairwoman of the event is his daughter, Dr. Dariga Nazarbayeva. On Friday night, we’ll be going to an event hosted by the mayor of Almaty, CNN International and the International Herald Tribune, which, like the Boston Globe, is owned by the New York Times Co. (Does Dan Totten know about this?)
I have no idea what to expect, although I know Schechter and his business partner, Rory O’Connor, have both come back in one piece previous years. I hope to do some blogging while I’m there, but I’m not sure how reliable our Internet connection will be.
Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi has been sentenced to eight years in an Iranian prison, the Committee to Protect Journalists reports. The dispatch begins:
An Iranian court convicted journalist Roxana Saberi of espionage and sentenced her to eight years in prison today following a closed, one-day trial earlier this week, according to international news reports. Her lawyer said he will appeal. “Roxana Saberi’s trial lacked transparency and we are concerned that she may not have been treated fairly,” said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. “We call on the Iranian authorities to release her on bail pending her appeal.”
You have to wonder if Saberi has been caught up in the byzantine workings of internal Iranian politics. President Obama has attempted to find an opening to the regime. Iranians who don’t want to see any contacts between Iran and the United States obviously stand to benefit from Saberi’s imprisonment.
Obama now pretty much can’t — and shouldn’t — have anything to do with the Iranian government unless it releases Saberi. Which it won’t.
Here is a link to the CPJ’s online petition demanding freedom for Saberi. I’m going to go sign the Facebook version right now.
More: I see that the petition is now closed. But I joined the CPJ’s Facebook group, and urge you to do the same.
Still more: According to Global Voices Online, an Iranian blogger says Saberi is being held so that she can be used as a pawn in a prisoner swap.
Photo of Saberi with former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami.