Era of holy-crap-will-I-have-a-media-job-tomorrow? continues

troy record buildingFrom the kafkaesque intersection of modern journalism and business: there was one bidder for the Journal Register Company -- the parent company of the Troy Record and the Saratogian -- at its bankruptcy auction last week. That company: an "affiliate" of Alden Global Capital, the hedge fund that already owns Journal Register. [Saratogian] [AP/Washington Post]

That was pretty much the plan when the company filed for bankruptcy (again) last fall: to wash the company through bankruptcy in an effort to rid itself of legacy obligations -- like leases and pensions. [John Paton blog]

So. It's not exactly the most confidence-inducing time for employees of the company. And then this happens: everyone got termination notices. From a Saratogian article by editor Barbara Lombardo:

This does not mean there will be changes in the operation or staffing of The Saratogian, The Record, the Community News or other Journal Register Company properties. Changes, if any, will be up to the new owners.
The termination notices were mailed to every employee in the company in accordance with the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act -- commonly called the WARN Act -- which requires most employers with 100 or more employees to provide notification 60 calendar days in advance of plant closings and mass layoffs, according to the U.S. Department of Labor website.
In this case, once the sale is complete, the purchaser will contact current Journal Register Company employees about its staffing decisions. Journal Register Company officials said they hope to complete the sale on or about April 17.

Update: Here's the notice filed with New York State.

Said a JRC VP to the (Litchfield County, CT) Register Citizen (itself a JRC paper): "Journal Register Company's leadership team cannot speak on behalf of the new owner, but has continually expressed to the purchaser that a competent and competitive workforce is critical to the Company's success moving forward."

Noted.

Earlier and elsewhere:
+ Parent company of Saratogian, Record files for bankruptcy. Again. (2012)
+ Nieman Lab: Journal Register Co. declares bankruptcy... again: Is this the industry's first real reboot? (2012)
+ Poynter: Newspaper investor [and Alden Global Capital founder] Randy Smith breaks silence to speak up for Gannett
+ Back in 2011 the NY Post called Smith the "grandfather of vulture investing"

image: Troy Record

Comments

Can parent companies be charged with child abuse?

That was pretty much the plan when the company filed for bankruptcy (again) last fall: to wash the company through bankruptcy in an effort to rid itself of legacy obligations -- like leases and pensions.

Gross.

It's bad enough that JRC chooses to pay poverty level wages to its professional staff.

If the Saratogian gets any thinner, I'm afraid it will no longer meet the defiinition of a newspaper. We loyally support it as subscribers and I hope for a hail Mary.

As a former employee of JRC, I heard a lot of 'digital first' over and over again. It was exciting and seemed like a good plan. But I left because it wasn't happening and still hasn't happened. There are still outdated sites that provide a poor digital experience for the consumers. There was such an inspiration among the staff but after a while of nothing happening, I lost faith and I left and took a job with a company who is moving and shaking - doing what I was hoping JRC would do.

And I hope they still will! I still think there is so much potential in local media and as a society we NEED them to survive and thrive.

Folks should understand -- and it seems like a lot do (which is awesome!) -- that it's in their best interests to have a bunch of healthy daily newspapers kicking around the area.

Like any business, competition makes news media better. It keeps us honest and is better for readers.

But a fundamental part of a healthy newspaper is a staff that is not miserable and constantly in fear of getting downsized or outsourced. There are newspapers in this country that publish local news written by people hundreds of miles (and more) away. Trust me, you don't want that.

Those of us who are from here have a hard enough time spelling Schaghticoke as it is.

If you're into buying local, your local newspaper is about as local as local gets.

Sincerely,

A self-interested and local-news-loving newspaper reporter

Where's the union, the Newspaper Guild, in all this? Are these workers not unionized?

@Jordon -- yup, I have a subscription to the TU. Have had one for decades and they'll have to pry the tree-sourced paper from my cold, dead hands.

@Chris

Neither of those papers are unionized, so I don't think there's much The Guild can do other than commiserate.

We're lucky (and increasingly rare these days) at the TU to be part of The Guild.

I get JCE's point about the local newspaper being a vibrant part of the community and all that. But the Times Union’s reporting the past few years (aside from state govt issues) has teetered between irrelevant and laughable. Does anyone really care whether Schenectady gets an advanced showing of the Place Beyond the Pines? Does the TU help its credibility by running free full-page ads for real estate agents (as recompense for an equally ridiculously one-sided “story”)? The mere presence of a local newspaper doesn’t necessarily do its host community any favors.

@Bob -- my beef with the TU is how much they pad out thin content with comments from the blogs. If I wanted to read "On the Edge," I would. It happens I don't want to read it so I resent paying for a subscription and regularly seeing large chunks of my paper filled with that fluff.

Am I the only one who noticed that on WAMC's "The Media Project," they switched the verse of the song that concludes the show...and the verse we now hear is the one about how mistreated newspapermen (such interesting people) banded together to create the Newspaper Guild?

I'm not suggesting a conspiracy or even a media-peeps fist bump from whoever edits the show at WAMC. I just thought it was funny considering this new job strife in the local mediascape.

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