Big paper difficulties hit the boonies

The Florida Times-Union, based in Jacksonville and by far the largest paper in Northeast Florida, sent a memo to staffers this week warning...

The Florida Times-Union, based in Jacksonville and by far the largest paper in Northeast Florida, sent a memo to staffers this week warning that weak revenues so far this year means they are in for a crackdown. Specifically, publisher Carl Cannon said a "downturn" in real estate, auto, and retail advertising means the paper will immediately institute a hiring freeze, a salary freeze, a reduction in travel and entertainment expenses, and probably more budget cuts to be forthcoming.

What a fun time to be a reporter in Jacksonville! I read the Times-Union my entire life growing up, and I still check in on it regularly, so I think I'm qualified to say that it is not the most refined and eloquent publication ever to grace newsprint. A decline in travel and entertainment budgets means, essentially, that sportswriters will have to take Greyhound buses to the Georgia football games, and dine in slightly less expensive barbecue restaurants.

The more interesting story here is that the budgetary difficulties that have wracked large papers from the New York Times on down over the past couple of years are now trickling down to markets like Jacksonville.


The conventional wisdom is that small, local papers will be relatively safe in their positions, while the larger ones suffer as their bloated budgets are affected by Internet competitors. But when solidly mid-size papers like the Times-Union start feeling the pinch, it's time for all you journalism students at the University of North Florida to consider professional surfing instead.

BONUS: Read the 2004 story in the Jacksonville alt-weekly Folio Weekly (where I used to work) that brought down the Times-Union's editorial page editor Lloyd Brown, because of his nasty workplace pornography habit. Hey, at least you got out before these budget cuts, Lloyd!

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