The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

Destiny of Newspapers in Hands of Greedy Stockholders, Publishers

By Alicia Dorr in News on Apr 14, 2006 3:10PM

Newspaper publishers shocked the world ... of geeky stock analysts yesterday when many posted dismal results Extra.jpgfor the first quarter.

As for the rest of us, we were thinking about the incestuous-ness of a newspaper article on newspapers not doing so hot in sales. We know it's necessary, but still—that's the kind of goofy crap we think about.

Anyway, publishers cited poor ad sales, "new costs for dispensing stock options" and the rising cost of newsprint as reasons for the results. Among the worst was a 4 percent drop for McClatchy, Co. and a 69 percent fall for New York Times, Co. The Tribune Company had a 28 percent drop in a bunch of things that sound like lies, such as "lower revenue," "stock compensation costs" and "one-time charges."

All of this brings to mind two very important things—why the hell did we miss the part of economics class that explained what the hell all those numbers mean and why the hell did newspapers ever go public. On the former, we always get perturbed because these "numbers" and "figures" seem to us to be "imaginary" and "up in the air." Obviously, we're skeptical.

As for the latter, seriously, why did newspapers go public? In an interview on NPR's On the Media, former Knight Ridder employee Buzz Merritt pointed out that newspapers weren't really doing as badly as it seemed in the last half a century, but the fact that they were newly answering to stock holders meant the bottom line has to be larger and larger every yerar. Otherwise you're losing, of course (you know, 2+2=5). He even quoted founder Jack Knight as saying, "When you go public, you lose control of your destiny."

But, instead, in a time when the bottom line means everything, we've got a bunch of papers sacrificing real news to give newsbytes on celebrities, and whatever is leftover is dumbed down in stupid tabloids for babies like babies could read. Sorry, but we think it's all totally backwards.