Special Cash

No industry journalist has any business blaming any part of what’s happened to newspapers on the Internet: 

Its coffers still full from last year’s sale of the Los Angeles Times, Chicago-based Tribune Publishing announced Thursday it will pay a special cash dividend of $56 million to shareholders.

It will be the first dividend paid to shareholders since Tribune Publishing spun off in August 2014 as a stand-alone company and significantly shrinks a cash pile that made it both a potential buyer of other media properties and an acquisition target.

The company, which owns the Chicago Tribune and other major newspapers, had $98.2 million in unrestricted cash at the end of the first quarter, according to financial reports. Between the upcoming dividend payment and other recent expenses, the projected cash balance would be about $25 million.

But here we are:

The urge to merge comes as the newspaper industry faces secular revenue declines and a challenging transformation from print to digital platforms.

The newspaper industry faces revenue declines but still has shitloads of money it chooses to pay out to shareholders because publicly trading a company that owns this Democracy Dies in Darkness Fourth Estate Public Trust Journalism Is More Important Than Ever is FUCKING INSANE.

I mean good Christ, the paper you could run for $56 million. The paper you could run for $5 million. For years the “print platform” depended on generating enough revenue that sexual-harasser slush funds and 20 percent profit margins could be masked by hand-over-fist revenue and nobody knew how to make do except the constantly reshuffling newsrooms where the people who did the work we were all told was so critical to America were chewed up and spit out. Even before the mobile Internet, shit, before wifi, we were told there was no money. All the while, buckets, and none of it got saved because we had to keep the shareholders happy.

And perhaps the industry, or at least the journalists who like to lecture the mildest of critics on the Internet about how sacred their work is, might want to work less on transforming from print to digital platforms and more on transforming from a “business model” that NEVER WORKED to one that does.