New York newspapers are doing it very tough. Forget the election of Donald Trump and the rotten performance of The New York Times, or the indifference of the Murdoch-controlled Wall Street Journal, and its stablemate, The New York Post. The advertising drought is proving impossible to resist for all concerned.

Before the election the Times was in the midst of a top-to-bottom reshaping, with job cuts to come. The Wall Street Journal quickly joined it with a redesign of the  entire paper (as we will see tonight when the first new-look WSJ appears in New York). Days after the elections we learned that the New York Observer, which is owned by Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, is ceasing its print edition, just short of its 30th year as a weekly paper. The final edition was printed last Wednesday and from now on its website only (Observer.com).

A day later news surfaced of a major revamp of the New York Daily News, which currently has a voluntary contract buyer offer on the table for all staff. But it is going slowly, and media reports at the weekend said the paper’s editor-in-chief, Arthur Browne, was now warning of layoffs by year’s end if more staff do not put their hands up to leave. In a memo to staff (reported by Politico), Browne nicely summed up the pressures that have intensified on print media (especially in the US, Canada and the UK, where the Brexit uncertainty is doing unforeseen damage, even to its most ardent supporters).

The Daily News has already cut dozens of jobs in 2015, months after the owner, Mort Zuckerman, failed to find a buyer for the paper.

So far at least 50 journalists at the Journal (of around 500 journalists) have been reported as accepting buyouts (Murdoch papers never announce final figures for sackings and voluntary cuts). The job cuts are part of a move to chop the cost base at the Journal by US$100 million over the next two years. (In Australia News Corp will have cut $140 million and an unnamed number of jobs from the start of this year to June 2017). The New York Times is understood to have cut 80 people in its latest contract buyout, with more planned early in 2017, while The Guardian cut its US numbers by 40 (from around 140, all working on the news website in the newsroom or advertising and technology).

Peter Fray

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