April Fools: Media executives whistle optimistic tune past graveyard

In cafés, pubs and back patios across Portland, writers and editors are struggling to decide their course in the changing economy of journalism.

Various social groups have convened to explore news incubators and nonprofit possibilities for Web sites that would incorporate citizen journalists as well as press-pass-carrying reporters and editors, many hoping to find a steady paycheck at the bottom of the glass.

Whatever model this “new journalism” will take, it sure as hell won’t be a newspaper, members have twittered among their goups.

Only last year, newspapers were reporting their omnipresence despite talk in the board rooms that online news services and independent media could soon creep into their market. As a result, 2009 was a busy year for newspapers as they consolidated news and advertising efforts across the country to better leverage their core strengths.

News Corp. (Fox Network) announced in July it was buying the McClatchy Corp. (The Olympian, Tacoma News Tribune), then unloading McClatchy’s Knight-Ridder acquisitions from a few years ago to the Tribune Co. In August, News Corp. announced it was merging with the Tribune Co. and absorbing its assets into Fox News., essentially buying out the struggling Chicago-based corporation. That news was shortly followed by News Corp.’s announcement that it will be selling off a portion of Tribune’s Thompson-Reuters acquisitions of the past decade to Gannett Corp., (Salem Statesman-Journal) which was recently acquired by News Corp. and subsequently reorganized as a limited liability corporation under Direct TV, the nation’s largest satellite TV system. Direct TV is owned by Rupert Murdoch, owner of News Corp.

“Now we are aligned to weather the changing marketplace,” said Murdoch, Skyping from his chalet in Switzerland. “We have never, and will never, waiver from our commitment to put in print for the American people what’s important, when it’s important and how to vote on it.”

No official reduction figures have been released, but Twitterer @datelinedeath reported soon after the changes that more than 32,000 journalists already have been “retired” from McClatchy Corp., via Tribune Co., via News Corp. via Gannett via Direct TV as of press time. (You can read the transcript of newsroom discussions during the layoffs through the live blog mymediamattersmost.com.)

Another 12,000 employees are shivering at their ergonomic keyboards.

“This is an exciting time to be in newspapers,” says Rudy Sukitup, vice president of “American Idol” promotions for Direct TV, as reported on the blog http://www.papercuts.wordpress.com. Among the changes made by News Corp. is that now all news editors will report to their regional executive directors of promotional advertising. “It just seemed to make sense to put into policy what we’ve been doing all along.”

Apparently, those synergies have been spent. Monday, News Corp. reported it was selling its McClatchy holdings to Gannett, but later rescinded the offer after learning it already owned Gannett. On Tuesday, News Corp. announced it would be unloading Gannett to Tribune Co., which is being dissolved into a wholly owned subsidiary of Direct TV, owned by News Corp.

“We’re responding immediately to the changing market,” said a nondescript white guy in a gray suit speaking in front of a microphone reporters were gathered around.

Meanwhile, The Oregonian owner Advance Corp. has become Facebook friends with Lee Enterprises, owners of Pulitzer Inc.

The Oregonian also announced it is sending pink slips to all J School seniors in an effort to thwart any misunderstandings about their prospects.

By Fantasia. Available for all your typing needs

* Each year on April 1,  Street Roots publishes a special satire edition of the newspaper.

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