Well, I Didn't Mean MY News....
For example, David Westin, president of ABC News, led into an 8-point list of expense cuts with this convoluted justification: "We report every day on the economic climate and the effects being felt throughout the country. We are not immune from the downturn. At the same time, the importance of the election and economic stories reminds us how much we have to do to help our audiences absorb and understand what is going on around them. What we need to do--and will do--is to make sure that we have all the resources we need to cover the news."
What followed were routine limitations on first-class travel, conference attendance, etc., but item 6 was a bit of a surprise:
6. As of December 1, we will cancel all subscriptions (newspaper and magazine) for executives and production employees and move them to online. This change will have the added benefit of helping the environment.
Students of Big Media, a class Mr. Westin must have skipped to take a road trip to Marygrove College, will recall that ABC News is part of The Walt Disney Company--which, as luck would have it, also includes ESPN, publisher of the highly successful ESPN The Magazine, and lesser-known ESPN Deportes Magazine, Bassmaster Magazine, BASS Times, and Fishing Tackle & Retailer. Another sister Disney division, Disney Publishing Worldwide, produces more than 440 magazine titles, including Disney Adventures and Family Fun.
If the publishers rowing away on the galley benches of the good ship Disney are like the rest of their colleagues, they are watching their ad pages and subscribers evaporate as both move online, where publishers are hard-pressed to make enough money to keep Mr. Westin's news team in pancake makeup. So I am sure that having someone as senior in the company as Mr. Westin suggest their publications are not worth the environmentally incorrect paper they are printed on is a funny notion they can share with their grandkids when they are standing together online at a soup kitchen.
There is something equally unsettling about the president of a news organization mandating the cancellation of newspaper subscriptions. Does he seriously think that The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post--which provide the first draft of ABC News' story list each day--are not worth paying for anymore? How would he feel if the president of the Associated Press or Gannett issued a memo arguing that no one should watch live ABC News shows anymore, rather catch them online so that viewers can't be monetized in the on-air ratings?
I am not going to lie and say I enjoy paying a couple hundred bucks a year to maintain my dead-tree copies of the WSJ and the NYT (the failure of the home delivery guy to drop them as requested at the base of my mailbox will force me to cancel if I ever do). But to me they are both national treasures, and worthy of support even in the toughest economic times. Having spent almost a decade and a half at Newsweek, I know that the single most important factor in maintaining editorial integrity and independence is a healthy balance sheet.
If editorial integrity, independence and a healthy balance sheet disappear, no one will miss them more than... ABC News.