For many who work for San Diego media, the best thing about 2010 is that it’s not 2009.
The last year brought layoffs to local newspapers (more than 300 at The San Diego Union-Tribune alone), radio and TV stations and at least one magazine. Journalists lost their jobs along with many of those who help them bring news to the public — advertising salespeople, press operators, receptionists and janitors.
So what’s next? Here’s an update on newspaper happenings and a look back at some big media stories in 2009.
Newspapers: The Union-Tribune, which got a new owner last year, is still privately run, so it’ll be difficult to know exactly how it’s doing financially in 2010. (We’ll of course keep track of whether it hires or cuts any more journalists. As of last August, executives said things were looking up.) One thing will definitely be public: The paper’s choice of a new editor-in-chief — and the direction in which he or she leads the paper.
Karin Winner, the paper’s editor since 1995, stepped down at the end of last month. The newspaper has advertised seeking applicants for the position.
While there’s no single acting editor in the interim, three top newsroom managers remain in their positions and are running the show.
They are: Lora Cicalo, managing editor/news; Bill Osborne, managing editor/editorial & opinion, and Robert York, managing editor /presentation, sports, arts & entertainment.
“All three of us have served in senior leadership positions in the newsroom for more than a decade,” York told me via e-mail.
There’s another large daily newspaper in the region: the North County Times. (Disclosure: I write for the paper on a freelance basis.)
The NCT’s parent company, Iowa-based Lee Enterprises, had a near-death experience in 2009 when its stock dropped below $1 a share and was almost de-listed from the New York Stock Exchange. (We took an in-depth look at the paper’s debt-induced troubles in late 2008.) But things have been looking up for the company’s stock in recent weeks. Its stock closed today at $3.90, up more than 1,100 percent from its low of 24 cents a share last year.
Broadcast media: Local TV stations cut back on staff in 2009 and ordered reporters to learn how to shoot their own video, while the number of local radio talk shows dwindled. Radio news on KOGO (a voiceofsandiego.org partner) took a hit too, as the station outsourced much of its news operation to a sister station in Los Angeles.
KPBS, meanwhile, has had financial challenges because of the recession. But it got a $2.5 million grant to remodel its newsroom and is hiring a manager to oversee its television, radio and online operations. (There’s no word on the hiring yet.)
(We, of course, are a media organization ourselves. We’ll be rolling out a series of new content initiatives soon. Watch for our ongoing efforts to diversify and grow our revenue streams. We have the support of a number of tremendous foundations, but some have made it clear that they are only here as start-up help, not in the long term, so our membership and other revenue efforts will be important to our sustainability and future growth.)
— RANDY DOTINGA