Left In Lowell

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April 19, 2009

Which news gatherers?

by at 11:05 am.

Dick broke the news layoffs-at-the-lowell-sun/ on Friday that the Lowell Sun had yet another layoff. “The Lowell Sun laid off a number of employees today – I heard the names of at least six news-gatherers – and another moved to the Fitchburg Sentinel & Enterprise.” News gatherers, that sounds ominous.

I have not been able to find an article on line announcing this work force reduction. I think it would appropriate to inform the readers of what is going. Last Month when the Herald lay-off 24 employees, the workforce reduction was announced on its Business pages.

The Sun’s parent company, Media News Group is in financial trouble as are many other media companies including Gates House Media (they own over 100 New England daily and weeklies) and of course, the New York Times Co. However, not much is written about the Media News Group’s problems. Here are some of the facts:

April 3, 2009 “MediaNews Group Inc., owner of the Denver Post, has reached a deal with its lenders and bondholders to delay payments on its considerable debt while it reorganizes its finances, according to news reports. As part of deal, the Denver-based nationwide newspaper chain skipped paying the principal on a debt payment to lenders that was due March 31, instead paying only the interest.”

March 20, 2009: “…Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services just withdrew all its ratings on MediaNews ‘per the company’s request,’ according to an S&P announcement. Another ratings agency, Moody’s Investors Services, estimated last December that MediaNews, with annual revenues of about $1.2 billion, is carrying $962 million in debt. At the time, privately held MediaNews vigorously disputed Moody’s estimate that its so-called leverage ratio was more than 8 times debt to EBITDA.”

March 18, 2009: “Standard & Poor’s Ratings Service has lowered its issue-level rating for MediaNews Group Inc.’s secured credit facilities to CCC from CCC+.”

December 12, 2008: “Moody’s Investors Services on Thursday said that William Dean Singleton’s MediaNews Group faces increased risk of defaulting on its loans, as it downgraded almost $1 billion of the debt…Moody’s said it is concerned that the ‘downturn of the company advertising sales will be significantly more protracted than previously anticipated, further straining the company’s liquidity profile and heightening the probability of a covenant default’.”

June 6, 2008 “The Standard & Poor’s credit-rating service has lowered its assessment of Denver-based MediaNews Group Inc. by two levels, from B-minus to CCC, saying it expects the nationwide newspaper chain to “pursue a restructuring of some kind. CCC is four levels above default as S&P defines it, and well into the ‘junk bond’ range.
MediaNews’ bonds lately have been trading at less than 50 cents on the dollar. ”

Back to the Sun staff, as far as I can tell my favorite reporters are still there; yeah!! And speaking of reporters, did you notice that a few weeks back Christopher Scott went from City Editor to City Editor/reporter and today he is back to City Editor. What is that about?

26 Responses to “Which news gatherers?”

  1. Prince Charming Says:

    You really don’t expect these guys to air their dirty laundry in public do you? The folks at the Sun have turned selective reporting into an art form. Your blog should have as its masthead “All the News That’s Not Fit to Print By the Sun”.

  2. Eleanor Rigby Says:

    The paper still hasn’t done even a round up of what happened at last Tuesday’s city council meeting! So I guess they are officially turning over local news coverage to Mimi, Lynne and K-R-S and LiL while they focus on trashing the school committee and teachers union!

  3. Paul@01852 Says:

    You mean you haven’t heard?? The Sun now has The “Round-Up of What Happened at Last Tuesday’s City Council Meeting” Column every Sunday. :) (But of course since the Sun doesn’t have The “What Happened at the Lowell Sun Last Week” Column it’s no wonder you haven’t heard!)

  4. Ryan Adams Says:

    Debt is such a huge freaking problem in corporate America, never mind just the media. I wonder how many of these companies would be having so many difficulties if they didn’t pile up huge sums of debt, generally to gobble one another up.

    Debt to buyout has got to be regulated in this country. If companies want to become larger and larger, they shouldn’t be able to risk the entire freaking economy in their quest to do it. if it makes so much sense for two (or more) companies to be one, let them merge instead of buy one another out.

  5. Christopher Says:

    Remind me - what was the advantage of selling a decent locally-owned paper to a nationwide conglomerate a few years back?

  6. Stop it right now!! Says:

    I am sick and tired of all the criticism of Lowell’s Great Newspaper. After all, as Mr. Wallace pointed out recently, it outlasted the Courier-Citizen’s retreat into publishing phone books. You people seem to think there is something wrong with the editor spending time hosting on-line telephone talk programs and writing his occasional satire lampooning conservative thought (some people apparently take his humor columns seriously, but in reality they are a burlesque of the National Review. They are brilliant. He could probably get a handsome job writing for the Colbert Report.)

    The Sun will be leaner and more efficient!! Ready to compete!!

  7. Lucy the Dog Says:

    certainly leaner. today’s was as thin as a rite-aid circular.

  8. Eleanor Rigby Says:

    Gee Stop It, I just saw the list of Pulitzer’s in the Globe today, Campy’s offerings were not listed. Maybe I missed it!

    BTW I don’t think it’s the LOWELL Sun any longer.

    The name of our city no longer appears in the paper’s masthead and most of the ‘news’ stories are geared toward the Fitchburg area.

  9. middle roader Says:

    Is it just me or aren’t we better off with no Sun or their attention focused elsewhere than have them spewing their fabrications and agenda here?

  10. Stop it right now!! Says:

    Ellie, the Sun’s banner is a dose of schizophrenia at its worst (BTW it’s not the masthead, that’s the thingie on the editorial page where they print the names of the people who are to blame for what you are reading)

    Lowell was dropped from the name years ago, so in journalism circles, the paper is referred to as The (Lowell Mass)Sun. At one point in time, the Costellos recognized that what they once referred to as the Northern Middlesex area was a better market than Lowell. They stole this idea from the Framingham Daily News, which created the idea of a South Middlesex News before morphing into MetroWest, a brilliant marketing concept which has now gained recognition as a geographic area, even though it began as a newspaper’s strategy to stake out a market.

    While the founding family was trying to branch out its market, its managing editor turned general manager turned publisher turned non-executive chairman was busy helping his buddies by concentrating the paper on Lowell and praising the bejezus out of any nimrod with 50 bucks in his pocket who wanted the city to grant concessions, zoning changes, and “incentives” to turn worthless land into gold. So the paper became a regional paper in name, but remained intensely Lowell out of loyalty to the by now-publisher’s buddies. In the meantime, four suburban editions were trimmed to one. The general manager then grabbed a hefty finder’s fee for helping to sell the paper to the Denver interests on which he lavishes so much praise when the Costello family squabbles led to a loan from the Providence Journal (used to buy out the Clement Costello branch) and the loan being called in by Belo when it bought the Journal. He also became publisher, with P&L responsibility, but apparently the devotion to Lowell wasn’t good enough for the bottom line as he was given the silly title of “Chairman.” The Costellos had been on the right track, but the inter-family feuding led them to sell out and compromise on a publisher who had an agenda based on helping his buddies, so the paper continued to play politics with its Lowell coverage while failing to recognize the market of the “northern middlesex” area. Compare this to the Eagle-Tribune, which dumped Lawrence from its banner and threw itself into intense and devoted coverage of Andover, North Andover and Methuen and then branched out to grab Haverhill when Pulitzer ran that city’s paper into the ground. One could say that Lowell has had a Renaissance while Lawrence continues to struggle, but Lawrence is an amazing city of immigrants building small businesses (drive down any street and count them) while Lowell prefers well-heeled real estate developers lining their pockets with the help of the city and the newspaper. And yes, some of Lowell’s nuevo riche toss small businesses the occasional bone, so long as they don’t “make trouble” and “support Lowell’s progress.”

    So now the Sun casts off several reporters but fails to report on it, raising the question of whether the paper’s intensely-bureaucratic newsroom will suffer the loss of its multiple layers of editors, or whether it sacks front line reporters, which would fit almost perfectly with its tradition as a paper that rolls over for those with clout to the deriment of those on the front lines who are responsible for the actual revenue.

  11. Prince Charming Says:

    that about sums it up….

  12. Marigold Says:

    Does anyone know who is leaving?

  13. Eleanor Rigby Says:

    Very interesting history of the inner workings of the paper. The only thing that I will point out is that when the Costello’s dropped the slogan Lowell’s Great (or was it greatest) Newspaper to focus on the Northern Middlesex area there were four suburban editions that covered the news of those areas. Lowell city had the city edition. When the suburban editions went away coverage of Lowell began to decline to the point where it is today, not even covering the CC meeting!

    Because of moves by the Denver group, if a buyer did want to come in and take over the paper they would end up with a paper that does not even have a printing press!

    I would say that given the debt that MediaNews is carrying and the declining circulation/ad revenue and the very bad website the Sun has I predict the Sun will fold within a year.

  14. sleuth Says:

    Does anyone have any facts? Any reporters’ names disappear within the last week? Conjecture is so much easier.

  15. Eleanor Rigby Says:

    So far the only name missing that I have noticed is Dan Phelps. Because the Sun has shed most of their veterans I don’t know the names of most of the current batch of eager faced younins!

    I did notice two or three articles last night with a by-line from a writer for Nashoba Publications so it appears they are filling wholes with writers from other papers they own.

  16. Eleanor Rigby Says:

    Below is a link to a list of Management/Editorial/Sports Staff etc. I don’t see anyone missing (at least that I can think of) so if someone wants to download it and start checking whose by-line has disappeared go at it!

    http://www.lowellsun.com/contactus

  17. Stop it right now!! Says:

    Don’t read too much into not seeing a byline from a particular person during school vacation week. People who have been around a while tend to have lots of vacation and if they have kids, tend to use some of it during school vacation.

  18. Paul@01852 Says:

    Dan Phelp’s column was in today’s paper so unless his layoff was deferred , he is not on the list.

  19. Eleanor Rigby Says:

    Stop it, you are right about that and the Sun could have already removed the names of those canned from the contact list so unless they do a story themselves…not going to happen…or someone knows somebody at the Sun that will talk then the Sun will be keeping us in the dark about yet another story in the city!

  20. Stop it right now!! Says:

    Does anyone recall who the woman was laid off years ago leading to a discrimination suit? I seem to recall it was someone pretty high up but I don’t even remember if it was a business office person or an editor or reporter. I think we had to read about it in the herald gossip column

  21. Butterscotch Says:

    Stop it~

    Was that Carol McQuaide, an arts reporter/editor, who died young of breast cancer?

  22. Eleanor Rigby Says:

    Wasn’t she also the wife of a former school committee member?

  23. Sleuth Says:

    A blogger posts that “several sources” say “six newsgatherers” have been laid off. No one can say who. No reporter names have disappeared from the newspaper.

    Isn’t it possible that the “sources” all heard the same rumor, which isn’t really fact? That might also explain why The Sun hasn’t published a story — it didn’t happen.

    Unless, someone has proof….

  24. Butterscotch Says:

    Both the Sunday Column and the editorial page are reprinting comments from the nasty Topix forum. Add in BackTalk and a good part of the paper is taken from anonymous sources.

  25. Eleanor Rigby Says:

    “… The Sun hasn’t published a story — it didn’t happen…”

    That’s funny! LOL

  26. sleuth Says:

    Butterscotch: “a good part of the paper?” If those things are 1% of the paper, I’ll eat my hat, and yours.
    Eleanor: Glad I could bring humor to your day. It would be even funnier if you could rebut my point.

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