More people are going to lose their jobs.
Lee Enterprises and BH Media Group reached an agreement recently that will have Lee Enterprises managing 30 Berkshire-Hathaway owned newspapers, including the Omaha World-Herald.
I have my own experience with Lee Enterprises having been layed off from my job at the Columbus (Neb.) Telegram one month after my 10-year anniversary at the paper.
Lee owns the Telegram, Lincoln Journal Star and a handful of newspapers in the area and around the country.
In a story in the June 27 issue of the World-Herald, Lee Executive Chairwoman Mary Junck outlines its strategy, which includes cutting costs.
The biggest costs for newspaper are personnel and newsprint.
Newsprint costs are out of the control of newspapers, so reducing payroll by cutting the workforce is what large newspaper organizations do.
I lost my job at the Telegram, but Junck and the rest of the board were receiving bonuses totaling more than $1 million.
Lee’s No 1 priority is to make money for its shareholders, and that means people will lose their jobs.
Lee now controls the two largest papers in the state, the Journal Star and World-Herald.
Lee will look at how to consolidate services at those papers.
The Journal-Star and World-Herald, once rivals, will combine efforts.
I believe that will mean combining coverage of Nebraska Cornhusker sports, combining coverage of the Legislature, and at some point eliminating one pressroom. Both papers will either be printed in Omaha or Lincoln. Lee has already done so with newspapers in Fremont, Columbus, David City and Schuyler, among others. Those papers are currently printed in Lincoln.
Lee will save money no matter how those decisions impact employees.
Lee, it is reported, has done well with digital content. It has been able to market its newspapers on social media.
It is no secret the newspaper industry is struggling, and if you don’t think that includes the Humphrey Democrat, think again.
No, we are not going any place in the near future, but I cannot say what we will look like in 10-20 years.
The people who need to read and understand this, do not subscribe to the paper, so this message falls on deaf ears.
That is the quandary for newspapers. How do we reach people who do not care to be reached?
I have had an e-edition for more than a year, which is growing, but there are still people who do not take advantage of this service.
The World-Herald needs to upgrade its digital reach, and it is betting Lee can do that.
Time will tell.
I find it interesting that Berkshire-Hathaway signed only a five-year contract with Lee and BH maintains control over content.
It appears to be giving Lee a timeframe to prove itself and does not trust Lee with gathering and reporting the news that matters to its readers.
Lee, which has been struggling to stay afloat financially for years, receives $5 million a year from Berkshire-Hathaway plus it receives one-third of the $34 million the first two years and one-half the final three years.
That is money means nothing to those who will lose their jobs.
Patrick Murphy, editor-publisher of the Humphrey Democrat and Newman Grove Reporter in Nebraska, is a former assistant managing editor of The Telegram.