Dear Media General Employees,
sorry. Cold comfort, I know. It’s all I have. I’m sorry.
Another 15 furlough days after hellfire that was 2009, when you also absorbed
15 days without pay and a suspension of your 401k contributions. Three straight
years of belt-tightening and net losses, with some glimmer of hope when the
company turned a profit in the final quarter of last year. Now this. The rough equivalent
of a 6 percent pay cut.
Wall Street is underwhelmed. The stock dropped nearly 9
percent on the news, likely because furloughs are never adequate as far as the
market is concerned. But it reacts primarily to quick, numbers-only remedies
that often end up sucking so much of the quality out of a business as to kill
it. But look at you guys.
Congratulations to the reporters and crews at WJAR-TV in
Providence, R.I. on the station’s third National Murrow Award since
2008. Thank you for slogging around in flood waters for days to report on
washed-out bridges and roads, rescues and relief efforts. And to your
colleagues at WSAV-TV in Savannah, Ga., and WSPA-TV in Spartanville, S.C., for
their regional Murrow and AP awards. Well done.
Nice job, Shannon Behnken of WFLA-TV and The Tampa
Tribune, on following the effects of Florida’s foreclosure
crises. Way to go. And to the folks at WVTM-TV in Birmingham, Ala., for
organizing the United Way telethon that raised nearly $700,000 to support
relief efforts--thank you for that.
Nice job, Jessica Taloney of WKRG-TV in Mobile, Ala., for
your investigative reporting work that let people in the area know how
oil-befouled the Gulf waters remained after BP installed a containment cap on
the spewing undersea well. I hope they don’t lose you.
It’s been a
few years now since the Virginia Tech massacre, but probably not long enough
for the folks who were at WSLS-TV in Roanoke, Va., at the time, affecting
coverage that won them a Peabody. Both of the anchors were adjunct professors
at the school. John Carlin retired. Jay Warren is still with the station. Thank
you, Mr. Warren, for the work you do even as you and your colleagues endure the
The list of distinctions
surely goes on. Media General has 18 TV stations, 20-some daily newspapers and
200 or so weeklies. The head count at the end of 2009 was around 5,000.
I’m sure it’s less now, and I’d lay odds on the
majority of you being stretched beyond your limit and experiencing likewise
stress. There’s probably some hostility toward the executive suite
right now, but that won’t help anyone. Newspapers everywhere are
getting sucked into a black hole.
also that old saw about work being called “work” because it
is. I don’t care what six people in the world say--I don’t
know a single individual who honestly loves what they do
for a living all the time. Some days, you give it your all
and then some, and all you get back is a nasty phone call and some jerk with
too much leisure time telling you how you should have done your job. That’s
what beer is for, and I’d buy you all one if I had a winning lottery
ticket, but I don’t.
So I’ll have to settle for an expression of
empathy and gratitude. For all of you who continue doing what you do with the same
enthusiasm, dedication and focus; concern for your colleagues and your
communities, your family and the integrity of the work you do--thank you. I
hope it gets better for you all. Soon.
Sincerely, Deborah D.