Mar 19, 2007
Over the last few years, the owners of the Los Angeles Times have been slashing their workforce. The newsroom staff of reporters and editors was cut by more than 25%. And there were big job cuts in every other part of the operation, the pressroom, distribution and other services. A lot of these jobs were outsourced. Home delivery used to be done by Teamsters in company trucks. Now it is done by “independent contractors,” who drive their own cars and are compensated at barely the minimum wage. Customer service lines are now answered by operators in the Philippines.
The owners, the Tribune Company, claim that such cuts are necessary because of a rapid slide in circulation over the last decade, with weekday circulation plunging from about 1.2 million to a little more than 800,000.
Of course, the driving interest of the newspaper owners is not to improve news coverage and increase circulation – but only to increase their profits. And in that, they have succeeded mightily. Last year, the rate of profit at the L.A. Times was about 20%, which is several times higher than the average big U.S. company. Yet the owners and investors have made clear that they are not satisfied. They are demanding more improvements ... in profits. Last August, in a memo leaked to the press, the owners stated that they wanted more big staff cuts in order to increase their profit rate from 20 to 30%.
What is happening at the L.A. Times, the fourth largest newspaper in the country and the most important newspaper in the western United States, is happening to newspapers almost everywhere.
By cutting the newspaper workforces, the owners are cutting back on the very small trickle of real and relevant information that ordinary people used to get from newspapers.
In essence this is little different from what the owners of every other big industry are doing, from auto and steel to health care. All these capitalists fatten their profits and wealth at the expense of their workforce and society in general. They are in the business of making money, not of providing health care or of providing cars, steel or newspapers.