Never a Dollar for Journalism

OMG, are all these nonprofits doing journalism too expensive for the MAGICKAL FREEMARKET ™ to bear? 

Nonprofit news organizations are staking out Chicago for hot national stories—and increasing the competition for funds. ProPublica is setting up a regional bureau here, and others, including the Marshall Project and Chalkbeat, are mulling a move into the Chicago media ecosystem.

All are drawn to critical stories—on crime, finances, education and other issues—engulfing the city, and philanthropic sponsors, such as the McCormick Foundation, are giving the organizations millions of dollars for what they see as the evolution of journalism. Still, there are fears that some media could be squeezed by the multiplying outstretched hands, despite the nonprofits’ collaborative rivalry.

Yeah. Those greedy nonprofits, outstretching their hands for the journalism money of which there is clearly not enough: 

Departing can be very sweet sorrow in corporate America, according to securities filings by Tribune Publishing that detail recent severance and other deals.

Former CEO Jack Griffin will receive $2 million, according to documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. He was ousted by new key shareholder Michael Ferro last month after Griffin convinced him to invest $44 million in the company.

That is in addition to $3.2 million in total compensation received by Griffin in 2015, according to the filings in advance of the company’s annual meeting. His tenure generally saw a sharp drop in stock price, feuding with the then-publisher of his largest paper, the Los Angeles Times and a dismal performance in luring digital-only subscribers (the company’s papers have a combined total of 88,000, compared to about 1.1 million for The New York Times alone).

Other executives shown the exit with Griffin did rather well, despite the sharp industry decline impacting the company’s major properties, including The Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Hartford Courant and Baltimore Sun, among others.

Sandra Martin, the former chief financial officer, will get a severance equal to her $367,500 salary and unpaid incentives bonuses for the previous year, an a prorated incentive bonus for this year. Her total compensation last year was $1,004,755.

There was a similar farewell package for Denise Warren, the former head of the company’s digital operation, whose base pay was $336,539 but had total compensation of $1,151,200 last year.

Meanwhile, Austin Beutner, the former Los Angeles publisher who was dismissed last year after wrangling with Griffin, received severance that includes a lump sum equal to his base pay of $675,000. His total compensation in 2015 was $1,924,806.

The SEC documents also indicated that Tony Hunter, until recently the publisher of The Chicago Tribune and now the president of “national revenue and strategic initiatives,” earned $1.4 million last year after earning $2.1 million the year before.

That compensation, by the way? A total of more than $13 million, or nearly as much as PRO PUBLICA’S ENTIRE BUDGET. That’s right, supposed media companies paid their top executives — who presided over epic failures on every level from subscription losses to branding flops — almost as much to get the fuck out as Pro Publica paid everybody to do journalism. Yet somehow I’m supposed to worry we’re gonna run out of money here?

The problem we have in journalism isn’t a lack of funds. It’s a lack of funds for journalism. There’s always a million or two laying around when you have an asshead exec you need shitcanned but somehow when it comes time to pay reporters to spend night after night after night at crime scenes we get long wanky pieces about how expensive it all is and oh my GARSH we just might run bankrupt because of the 66 cents we pay him.

Let’s have another blogger ethics panel, though. Let’s invite another know-nothing old centrist pundit dude to wax nostalgic for a time before iPhones, when every kid had a paper route and everybody read the funnies to each other on Sunday. Let’s keep solving problems that don’t exist by creating aggregator networks and website re-launches and worry, worry, worry that nonprofit journalism is somehow suspect.

Wheel another barrel full of cash to the guys cooking the books. That’ll solve everything.


One thought on “Never a Dollar for Journalism

  1. Truly, they are assholes. But, to paraphrase Mencken, no one ever went broke underestimating the willingness to sit there stupidly and be spoon-fed crap of the American public.

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