Lee Enterprises bought a small town newspaper, the Floyd Press, for $140 million dollars. You’d think for that sum that they’d want to invest and maintain it, but no — they started firing the people right away. Did they think a newspaper was a collection of printing machines and nothing more? They kept paring away until the staff was reduced to one person, Ashley Spinks, who was the sole reporter, editor, and publisher, and someone whose job was selling ads. They were only paying her $36,000 per year, so it’s unclear what they thought they were buying for that $140 million.
An article discusses Spinks and Lee Enterprises cutting staff on newspapers all over the place, and it’s clear that they also don’t understand what they’re selling. They’ve got a fleet of small town newspapers that don’t have reporters writing about local news. The subscribers notice, too, but they’re a captive audience. These little newspapers don’t have to worry much about competition, and don’t do much investigative work. The one time in our lives that we subscribed to the Morris newspaper was when we had kids, and they’d regularly put up photos of local children doing local children activities. Right now I’d say that most of the interesting reading in our paper is on the op-ed page, where residents are providing all the content.
After that article, though, Lee Enterprises immediately fired Ashley Spinks.
An update: I got fired today for doing this interview. Less than 24 hours before the Press goes to print. The paper is not finished, don’t know how it will be. On a personal level: it’s 3 days before my wedding, which my superiors knew. They couldn’t even wait for next week. 1/x https://t.co/CdPeDfbKpN
— Ashley Spinks (@AshleyinFloyd) October 13, 2020
Now the Floyd Press has no reporters at all. I presume they’ve still got the person selling ads.
I’ve always thought of a newspaper as a collection of journalists at heart, with the thing on paper just being the medium. What is a newspaper without reporters and editors? Is art just a bunch of nicely framed canvases? Who needs a poem when you can just buy a rhyming dictionary? Would you pay to visit an empty zoo with a nice array of cages? Is science a lab with some fancy glassware and machines that go ping? Somebody is missing the whole point.
I suspect there’s some greedy capitalist motive driving Lee Enterprises that has nothing to do with informing the public about the news.