Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The Chicago Sun Times is a Canary in a Coal Mine. But which Coal Mine?

With the news announced last week that the Chicago Sun Times will be laying off 20% of its newsroom staff in order to cut costs (this in addition to reducing the physical size of the newspaper to pay less for paper), many are saying that the fate of the paper reflects the fate of the industry, hurt by shrinking ad dollars and declining readership. A story in competitor paper the Chicago Tribune even goes so far to (conveniently) end on the idea that Chicago may become a one-newspaper town.

It's a brutal story, to be sure. Nearly 40 jobs will be lost, a level of cutting that can not help but affect the quality of the paper significantly. And it's a story that's following the same narrative we hear everywhere--the Internet is killing newspapers--so then why is it that veteran Sun Times critic Roger Ebert blames not the Internet, but instead says this:

"I hope everyone who is a victim of this triage receives handwritten apologies from Conrad Black and David Radler"

Remember, the Sun Times was part off the massive scandal surrounding Hollinger International, where Black was reported to have embezzled 97% of the media chain's profits. (A scandal, by the way, that prompted Ebert to write a series of incredible letters to Black at the time)

How much of the Sun Times current fiscal crisis is linked to the destruction that Black leveled on the paper? How much of many newspapers' current state of affairs is linked not to the changes brought about by the Internet, but instead by the hole dug by deep mismanagement from their media conglomerate owners?