January 08, 2019

The Dallas Morning News is Snoozing toward Gomorrah

Having spent most of the previous decade at a group of suburban Dallas weeklies, I'm long familiar with the Morning News and have long called it the Snooze.

A $24.99 T-shirt that used to be, at least, on sale
at the Snooze Store! And, since the pic is off a
hyperlink, not direct upload, presumably the, no THE,
Dallas Morning News is still engaged in late-stage
capitalism grifting.
A.H. Belo long liked to pretend its shit didn't stink, even as it dumped some whoppers, starting with the Cue Cat! As I noted in one post, that was just one of many stupidities in the online world, detailed again here. Or here, where a former Google exec presumed Snooze readers would be unaware of the existence of AdBlock. (I know this "ads-free viewing" is still around today, but often with "hard" screens if you either don't pay or else don't turn off AdBlock. OTOH, many other places, like the Snooze then, had "soft" tut-tut screens.)

Those stupidities have real-world effect.

It's whacked another 40-plus people as ad sales continue to slip. (A 7.5 percent adhole on Christmas Eve, per my tracking of them, is horrendous, so this isn't a made-up problem. And, as is my wont, that counts obits as adhole inches.)

That's not the worst.

Giving 40 top execs $1.2 million in bonuses for a good financial management job achieved in part by whacking people? SEC link here.

THAT is the worst.

But, unsurprising. Also not surprising is the hypocrisy of publisher Grant Moise with his hand-wringing, when he got nearly $500K in stock options, bonuses and that management goals compensation — that alone being $250K. CFO Katy Murray got $100K just for the realignment. (And, this isn't the first time this issue has popped up.)

Weird are some of the positions that were NOT cut until this round. Example? The Snooze killed its Sunday book review pages, part of what used to be a full-section Sunday Review, a decade ago. But, it still had a books editor, even if part-time or freelance?

Sidebar: This may, or may not, be connected to a hedge fund buying a chunk of the Snooze. And, if you thought the paper already was slouching toward Gomorrah, that would be the kiss of death.

Three years ago, I looked at the background of executive editor Mike Wilson and managing editor Robyn Tomlin and saw beancounters at bottom. More on Tomlin here.

Meanwhile, as late as the most recent election, its op-ed stances continued to dig in determinedly into the right-hand batter's box only, despite all of Dallas County clearly tilting blue now, and the first ring of suburbs in Collin getting at least a tint of purple.

And, the Snooze has less and less room for further error.

Having outsourced its pagination to Gatehouse 18 months ago, there are no copy editor jobs to cut.

If selling the old Belo building, per the story about the layoffs, was predicated on Amazon HQ2 coming to Dallas, does that mean it's not attracting other offers? Sounds like it. (Jim Schutze has now given some kind of confirmation to this idea, that the Snooze was indeed hoping to roll the Belo Building over to Bezos.)

There are no papers left in Belo besides the Snooze itself and other Dallas properties. (Some in Dallas died in failed experiments almost as bad as paywall cluelessness. And the Denton Record-Chronicle disentangled itself from the Snooze last year.)

A third stab at a paywall may, or may not, be successful. The reporter says the paper is still losing circ as well as ad revenue, which means that online subscriptions, if they are moving upward, aren't having a huge effect, at least not yet.

And, the story itself is a bit dishonest, saying the cuts are 4 percent of the Snooze's Belo parent's workforce. They're far more than 4 percent of the people at the Snooze.

As for re-invention? The Snooze has been doing that for almost a decade.


That said, this is the worst ... that I know of.

I first saw Matt's link by a quote-tweet of a quote-tweet:
Hixenbaugh works at the Chronicle, which has had its share of controversial layoffs, even as it claims to still be making money, and even as it's owned by Hearst, which being privately traded, doesn't have to tell the SEC what sort of bonuses its execs get and why.

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