Jun 18


Monday Morning Read

The downsizing and otherwise downward spiral at The Buffalo News continues

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First off, have you noticed the changed typography in the print edition of The Buffalo News? It coincides with Lee Enterprises, the paper’s chain owner, dismantling The News’ design desk and shipping the work off to one of Lee’s satellite offices. Personally, I think the revised look is a step backwards.

Speaking of Lee, a former newspaper publisher and editor down in Virginia wrote a couple of posts in his newsletter last week that are relevant to Buffalo. Lee has a major presence in the state, publishing a dozen daily papers, including the Richmond Times-Dispatch. One post deals with a one-two whammy: Lee is raising the cost of subscriptions and making it more difficult to cancel. Could the same be on tap for The News?

The other post sizes up Lee’s finances and finds them dire.

“Lee is teetering financially, and has been since it successfully but expensively fought off a late 2021 hostile takeover bid from Alden Global Capital, a hedge fund,” wrote Jim Bacon, publisher of Bacon’s Rebellion.

Back to The News for a minute. The newsroom’s staff has shrunk again with the layoff of its design team. Denise Jewell Gee, the editor who headed up the local news operation, has left. As I previously reported, Brian Connolly, vice president of business development, has also departed, and the paper’s circulation director was recently fired, although I’m told he was not part of the problem. Except maybe his salary cost the company money.  Long story short: the ship continues to take on water.

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While I’m on the topic of media, Axios has the latest body count of media employees who have lost their jobs. And I quote: “17,436 job cuts so far this year, marking the highest year-to-date level of cuts on record.” Drilling deeper into the numbers, job losses for  news operations — print, broadcast and digital — are 1,972 so far this year, surpassing the loss of positions for all of last year, 1,808. Which is to say, The News is not alone in its woes, and solutions are in short supply.

On a happier note, the week before last I attended a conference staged by the Institute for Nonprofit News, the trade group for nonprofit newsrooms, and learned our ranks have grown to more than 450. That’s up from about 50 when I launched Investigative Post in 2012. When it comes to local news, the future is in the nonprofit sector.

The effort by Gov. Kathy Hochul’s administration to sneak a new gambling compact with the Seneca Nation through the state Legislature without revealing the details is bad government at its worst. A non-disclosure agreement? Seriously? Great reporting from Chris Bragg of The Buffalo News.

New York Focus rides again: The state cracks down on jailhouse journalists then retreats from the edict. (Sunshine is a wonderful thing.) Related: The New York Times profiles NY Focus.

 A couple of other interesting stories from The Times: The latest on the toxic legacy of Love Canal and a battle over a highway that divided a Black neighborhood in Syracuse. (Sound familiar?)

Buy your tickets to our benefit concert featuring Tom Toles

The Ottawa Senators of the National Hockey League bear some similarities to our Sabres, including a comparable market size and, until now, franchise valuation. The Senators are in the process of being sold, at a price reported to be between $900 million and $1 billion. Terry Pegula bought the Sabres in 2011 for $189 million. Imagine the windfall he or his heirs are in line for. A show of hands: Who thinks Pegula can afford to foot the bill for overdue renovations to the downtown hockey arena?

For all our tax dollars, New York ranks 30th out of 50 states for overall child well-being and 45th for economic well being. This, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, with a narrative here and info chart here.

Fresh Air on NPR recently broadcast an enlightening interview with Michael Waldman,  president of the Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU School of Law, in which he debunked all sorts of myths treated as gospel by opponents of gun control.

Here’s a good idea: ban book bans. That’s what Illinois is doing.

Coming later this year: a new song from The Beatles. Paul McCartney used AI to extract John Lennon’s vocal from a demo and took it from there.

Investigative Post

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