Here's John Mellott's spin to the staff.
July 16, 2008
To: All AJC Employees
From: John Mellott
Subject: Building a Sustainable Future Strategic Changes at the AJC
A few weeks ago, I told you that the economic factors affecting our business have worsened.
The recession, the downturn in the housing market, as well as soaring newsprint and fuel costs, have accelerated the urgency to reduce expenses at the AJC.
Ive talked to you before about significant change transformational change being required to meet the evolving needs of our readers and our advertisers and to ensure a strong, sustainable business.
At the AJC, we set a course two years ago with three primary objectives:
Expand our already robust Internet business.
Reset the business model for the printed newspaper to prepare us for the future.
Reduce overall costs.
Although the reinvention of the AJC will continue to play out in the weeks, months and years to come, we are faced with the tough reality of having to reduce our workforce today. Through a combination of voluntary buyouts, involuntary layoffs and position eliminations, we anticipate reducing our full-time workforce by about 200 between August and October. In the past two months, weve reduced staff in Circulation, IT and Production. Today, reflecting the decreasing size of our print newspaper, most of the reductions will take place in the News and Revenue departments. Employees in the impacted departments will meet with their management teams today.
Beginning next month, well be simplifying our daily newspaper, both to conserve costs and to focus on our core mission of covering Metro Atlanta in-depth.
The most significant of the daily product changes is the discontinuation of our geographically targeted community sections. This includes the daily Gwinnett News section as well as the NorthSide, CityLife and NorthWest sections. Publication will cease for these products between Aug. 7 and Aug. 10.
While the sections will go away, coverage will continue. The daily Metro and Sports sections will expand to include more news and information from these communities. Well continue to have staffers located in Gwinnett, Cobb, DeKalb and North Fulton, filing stories both for ajc.com and the printed AJC.
Other changes, of which you may already be aware, include:
Moving Better Health features from a stand-alone section into an expanded Wednesday Living section;
Merging content from Saturdays Buyers Edge section into an expanded Sunday Living section;
Strengthening the Sunday Homefinder section, and moving the HomeStyle décor and remodeling section from a limited-circulation run on Thursday to full distribution on Sunday.
Simply put, the cost to produce these sections has become prohibitive. Newsprint costs have risen 35% in the past year and, since we drive 80,000 miles a day to deliver the AJC, fuel costs have hit us hard. While we know many of our readers enjoy these sections, these moves overall are consistent with feedback from time-starved readers that the newspaper should become more focused and easier to navigate, particularly during the week.
The changes announced today, particularly those involving our employees, are difficult. However, they are necessary to sustain us in the present and position us for future growth.
We are rapidly becoming a multi-media company with strength in the print and Internet worlds:
Our total audience is larger than ever. Every week, 2.2 million adults are reading the AJC in print or online. Thats an increase of nearly 7% since last year.
In 2007, ajc.com logged more than 1 billion page views.
Our mobile traffic hit the 1 million mark per month earlier this year.
The Sunday AJC is a resource for more Metro Atlantans than any other single medium in our area.
We are the #1 direct mailer in the Atlanta market through AJC Direct and Valpak.
The AJC has unsurpassed brand recognition and credibility in Metro Atlanta.
We remain the largest news-gathering organization in the Southeast.
We are deeply appreciative of the work you do every day. We ask you to continue to focus on the tasks ahead in the months to come. We will get through this.
Ive attached a letter to readers that will appear on ajc.com this morning and in the newspaper Thursday.
If you have a comment, question or suggestion, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And, BTW, the AJC article was of a type that ensured you knew less after reading it than before. I mean, who cares who was late (other than the reporter). The article starts off saying board wannabes criticized the superintendent -- but neglects to mention that that's largely irrelevant. John Thompson is there and there isn't much the new board can do until he reaches the end of his 14 month contract. That may not be an ideal situation, but the only alternative for the board will be to buy Thompson out of his contract. What the AJC, in organizing this debate and in reporting on it, should have forced the candidates to confront is how the new board will meet the conditions to keep accreditation.
Oh, Scott, you're just so cynical. IF the AJC doesn't print it, it doesn't exist.
The idea that Mayor Franklin is making hard decisions and refuses to "look the other way" is simply not true. As I noted above, more than a year ago, I pointed out the great disparity in the payroll of Atlanta and in other cities of similar size. Not only did the Franklin Administration "look the other way," they came after Creative Loafing with bombast and ridicule.
Franklin's "policy director," David Allen, in a letter derided CL as a "leading source of misinformation." In fact, it was Allen's attempt to get slithery with numbers that was the misinformation.
But now we have proof that I was correct: An article this week in the Atlanta Business Chronicle states:
"[W]ith Atlanta facing a projected $140 million budget shortfall, Mayor Shirley Franklin is determined to get the city's payroll more in line with cities such as Charlotte, Cleveland and Seattle.
"We're trying to keep our cost structure similar to our competition," the mayor said.
That deserves a big "duh."
Trimming the payroll wasn't the mayor's position a year ago. She and her aides adamantly defended the overstuffed payroll. Her attack on Creative Loafing was what I reference above, an attempt to obscure a truth by attacking the messenger.
And, if the mayor had acted a year ago -- or in 2002 -- to bring Atlanta in line with other cities, we might not have a crisis today.
But the reason for the huge workforce is political. Every city employee has family and friends; added together they form a political machine that's far more important to politicians than safeguarding the interests of taxpayers.
Yes, the NYT did a good article. It is one of the few papers left that engages in great journalism. But the NYT is a mixed bag. After all, it provided the propaganda platform for Judith Miller. STill, compared with the AJC or most other newspapers, it's still worth a few bucks for the Sunday edition.
A few points. The AJC pulled out of other areas of the state a year ago. Those numbers were largely reflected in the last 6-month Audit Bureau of Circulations report. Moreover, the idea that web readership is comparable to subscriptions is just plain bogus. For example, you might Google "newspaper circulation" and come up with this item by Mr. Henry. That's not equivalent to picking up the Loaf and reading through it. The reason daily newspapers are losing subscribers is because the publications are no longer essential. They're fearful and timid in confronting power -- the biggest media story of the last decade has been the pathetic performance of newspapers in challenging the lies of the Bush administration. And they're still doing it. The NYT had a great, 8,000 word story a week ago on how the Pentagon is salting the media with shills, generally retired officers, who spin the administration line. Did the AJC tell its readers about that undermining of democracy? Not according the Lexis Nexis database.
Although I didnât mention American View in this article:
or this one: http://www.motherjones.com/news/feature/2005/12/a_nation_under_god.html
itâs part of the Christian Reconstruction movement. Basically, theyâre called âpost-millennialâ â they believe the world must be conquered by Christians before Jesus pays his second visit.
It's very scary that these theocrats find a home at the Gold Dome, but not surprising.
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