Janesville23.5°

Tough times hit hard at Gazette

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Scott Angus
October 31, 2008

I laid off two friends last week. Thatís an awful thing to do, and it kind of sums up the news business these days.

Times are hard, very hard, and drastic, unpleasant measures are needed. The tidal wave of trouble that has been on the horizon for years is crashing down on us. And the scariest part is that we donít know when the torrent will end, or if it will.

As business reporter Jim Leute documented in a story Thursday, the Gazette and radio stations WCLO and WJVL have cut about 10 percent of their work forces this year through layoffs and attrition. The deepest cuts came over the last week.

We arenít alone in the media business by a long shot. Newspapers, in particular, have been cutting back around the country for several years, and the intensity has picked up considerably.

Gannett Inc., the nationís biggest newspaper company, announced this week that it will lay off 10 percent of its work force after dumping 3 percent a few months ago. McClatchy and Lee, the next biggest newspaper owners, have been slashing, too.

At the Gazette, we avoided significant cuts in recent years while publicly traded newspaper companies shed jobs to reduce costs and appease shareholders. We are owned by Bliss Communications, which is private, and our owner, Skip Bliss, held off as long as he could while circulation and profits fell.

But the company has debts to pay and obligations to meet, and a ďperfect stormĒ of bad conditions caught up with us. Aside from troubling changes in the newspaper industry, the national economy is in its worst shape in memory, and the local economy is trembling after the announcement that production would end at GM.

The Bliss family has owned this company for more than a century, and the place has always felt like a family operation. People stay for years, and they become closer than employees at many companies, where the bottom line is what matters most. Thereís a comfort in working with people who have become your friends over time.

Sadly, things arenít as comfortable any more. Friends are gone. Those still here worry about the future. Itís no oneís fault. Itís our business. We still love it, but itís simply not the same.

I suspect it never will be.



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