What bankruptcy means for Journal Register Company newsrooms

6 Sep

First of all, let me couch this by saying that I’m speaking only for myself, and that I continue to appreciate the fact I work for a company that allows and encourages employees to think for themselves, speak their minds and debate company strategy in public view. That makes us stronger and helps us avoid mistakes that can be made in an insular culture.

Journal Register Company, which owns the New Haven Register, Middletown Press and Register Citizen, filed for bankruptcy on Thursday in an effort to shed “legacy obligations” that include significant debt, pension liabilities and expensive long-term leases on buildings we no longer use.

What does this mean for the newsrooms that I lead as editor of JRC’s newspapers in Connecticut?

Bottom line: It’s a big, pain-in-the-ass distraction in the short-term – due to misunderstanding about what bankruptcy means and why we’re doing it – but a huge long-term benefit that aims to keep our local news operations in business for years to come.

Twitter, Facebook and comments on Jim Romenesko’s blog about the media industry (my original post referred only to “Jim Romenesko’s blog” … I meant comments, not that Jim had written anything inaccurate) were full yesterday with misconceptions about this announcement. Let me tackle a few of them:

Myth #1 – Journal Register is filing for bankruptcy because a “digital first” approach hasn’t worked.

JRC’s print advertising revenue has declined at almost exactly the same rate as the rest of the newspaper industry over the past two years, while its digital advertising grew much faster than the rest of the industry. Through its focus on the web, video and mobile, the company did a better job than the rest of the industry in replacing print losses with digital growth. It remains very profitable on an operating basis. The issue is not results compared to the rest of the industry, but the big structural issues of a business that committed to major debt, lease obligations and a pension system that was based on a much bigger company built on a print advertising base that doesn’t exist anymore. There are numerous other newspaper companies faced with the same – or worse – issues. Some of them could take the same step JRC took yesterday at any time. I expect some will sooner rather than later. I feel a lot better about the strength of JRC after this process than I would working at a company that hasn’t confronted the pension time bomb and debt, or a company whose ownership situation is still in doubt. (For example, Tribune, which owns the Hartford Courant, is still in bankruptcy, four years and $231 million on bankruptcy lawyer fees after filing.)

Myth #2 – Journal Register has cut newsroom budgets.

In the days before John Paton took over as CEO, absolutely, JRC made significant cuts to newsroom budgets. We cut newsrooms even when times were (in hindsight) very good. But since Paton took over two and a half years ago, newsroom spending has remained flat. That’s a remarkable achievement in the environment and economy of today, and I’d challenge you to find another major newspaper company that hasn’t cut newsroom spending over that time period. It should be noted that at some individual JRC newspapers, newsroom staffing might be down compared to two years ago, but overall across the company, it’s flat. And as recently as last week in Connecticut, we announced an expansion of newsroom staff in Middletown and Torrington with the addition of a full-time investigative reporting position focused on use of the Freedom of Information Act.

Myth #3 – Journal Register employees will lose their pensions.

Again, this is just me talking, but the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corp. covers the past and present JRC employees who have pensions, regardless of what happens in the bankruptcy process. No one’s retirement is at risk.

Myth #4 – The bankruptcy filing represents a change in ownership and/or change in strategy.

While the Chapter 11 “auction” process calls for soliciting bids for the purchase of the company, a new “affiliate” of Alden Global Capital, the current owner of JRC and the holder of its debt, has submitted a “stalking horse bid” with the intention and hope of emerging as the owner after a process expected to take about 90 days. Speaking just for me (can’t say that enough), do the math, and-or talk to industry analysts and you’ll realize that the chances of anyone else making a serious bid for the company, although possible, are very unlikely. So, in theory, JRC would emerge from bankruptcy with the same ownership and same leadership, minus the huge structural legacy obligations that endanger the long-term health of our newspapers. And in theory, it would continue to be full steam ahead on the “digital first” strategy. Why? Because it has gotten better results than the rest of the industry. (See above.)

I have worked for Journal Register Company for nine years now, as a local editor, a corporate director of news, a publisher and now as group editor of our Connecticut newspapers and northeast regional editor for JRC and Digital First Media newspapers in Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts and Vermont.

I was there for “the old JRC,” focused 100 percent on print and practically 0% on journalism. I was there when help wanted classified revenue dropped 75 percent in a single year at the height of the economic downturn when I was publisher in Torrington. I was there through the “first” JRC bankruptcy, prior to John Paton’s arrival. And I’ve been here for the Paton era.

Never in my history with JRC has more attention and focus been placed (right from the top of the company) on improving local journalism, and never has editorial investment been so strong in relation to the overall economic picture of the company and the industry.

As Joshua Benton of Nieman Lab explains in this excellent analysis of yesterday’s filing, the JRC bankruptcy maneuver could be the newspaper industry’s first true chance at emerging out from under the print legacy millstone that has led to continual newsroom cuts at other companies, has made them too inflexible to compete in a digital age and endangers the future of local news reporting in many communities across the country.

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53 Responses to “What bankruptcy means for Journal Register Company newsrooms”

  1. Scott September 6, 2012 at 10:52 am #

    Why didn’t the first bankruptcy shed the legacy costs?

    • mattderienzo September 6, 2012 at 10:59 am #

      My take only, with no financial experience: The first bankruptcy process (before, incidentally, the involvement of John Paton, who has a clearer vision of what needs to be done, in my opinion, than previous leadership and much of the industry) did not go far enough in reducing legacy costs, in part because there was more optimism in our company and the entire industry about the stability of print revenue. My guess is they thought they had a much longer runway, and print declined faster for us and everyone else than they could have predicted.

      • Peter Demming September 7, 2012 at 8:14 am #

        They are using the bankruptcy vehicle to shed their pension obligations onto the people of the United States. The folks reiving the pensions will also be hurt, because their pensions will be reduced by a significant amount of money. Should be illegal. It definitely is lacking morality.

      • mattderienzo September 7, 2012 at 11:58 am #

        From what I understand, no JRC employee past or present is over the cap that’s guaranteed by the PBGC, so your statement that pensions will be reduced by a significant (or any) amount of money is unfounded as far as I know and have heard. What are you basing that on?

      • tgo1967 September 7, 2012 at 11:55 am #

        Mr. Derienzo, You claim no financial experience yet you are publisher of NH Register & In Charge of the New England region I believe. Does This mean you never prepared a budget in any of your past or current positions? If so, I now why JRC filed bankruptcy again!

      • mattderienzo September 7, 2012 at 11:57 am #

        Sorry, but I am not publisher of the New Haven Register. I’m an editor. I don’t know anything about bankruptcy law.

      • tgo1967 September 7, 2012 at 12:04 pm #

        My apologies for mis-stating your title. Work for jrc long enough and you’ll learn a lot about bankruptcy law – LOL

    • tgo1967 September 15, 2012 at 5:24 pm #

      Matty – Why are are you hiding? No Comments to My Most recent Comments? I Posted On John Patons’s blog and after 5 Days it is still waiting Moderation??? It Strikes me that you and John are gutless wimps more concern with not answer an a legitimate question than being being “journalists” as you both proclaim you are!!! Count your money now, the gravy train is reaching the terminus

  2. ConcernedInCT September 6, 2012 at 11:14 am #

    Addressing your myths:
    #1: Both you and John Paton should cease talking about digital revenue growth. It’s smoke and mirrors. You get an ounce of credit for not repeating the CEO’s line that there has been a 235% increase in digital revenue growth. That means nothing if you start with $1 and grew it by 235%. Yes, the numbers were, I hope, significantly higher, but my point is that you guys are using statistics to say what you want to make yourselves feel better. Your employees aren’t stupid, so please stop treating us like we are.
    #2: I’ve only been with the company for about a year, but this is, with all due respect, borders on a plain lie. You did get around it a little by saying that JRC has not cut newsroom budgets (which I also question, but cannot prove since our “open” culture does not share numbers). But here in Connecticut newsroom absolutely have diminished in staffing. Look at New Haven. How many fewer bodies are there now than a year ago? If you say it hasn’t shrunk, that simply will not be true. How about Middletown? Is there shrinkage there? Maybe not since there were so few there already. Look at Torrington. Tell me that core newsroom is not smaller. (And no, you can’t count the bodies you moved there from an already depleted New Milford office.)
    #3: I suggest you check that again.. You may be right, but just check for the sake of your employees, if you care.
    #4: First, go back and look at comments on #2. Second, if there isn’t a change in strategy, filing for bankruptcy again was a futile attempt at life support. Why would a company NOT change something that obviously has not been working? I get that the basic strategy of digital first will not change, and it shouldn’t. And since you are fully focused on that aspect, maybe there should be no surprise you would attempt to debunk this so-called myth. To even suggest there will not be major strategy shift is, however, just foolish. Unless it is true. If it is, please tell me and all other JRC employees now so we can polish our resume`s.
    I am not a finance wizard. Maybe (I hope!) JRC is doing this in good faith and for the long term good of the company. From where I sit I can only keep my fingers crossed and keep doing my job as best I can. What would make me more comfortable would be for you and other management to stop trying to paint a pretty picture for employees and the public. Can we live what we preach and be open and transparent?

    • mattderienzo September 6, 2012 at 11:28 am #

      Not sure what you’re basing this on. New Haven, Middletown and Torrington have exactly as many newsroom employees as a year ago. We have four open positions in New Haven that we are in the process of interviewing and making offers to fill. We have two open positions in sports in Torrington, where we’re doing the same. That’s the only difference, and if that’s what you’re referring to, we’re filling them, and there’s no delay other than the process of recruiting and hiring. Come see me any time and I’ll show you the employee lists from a year ago and today, if that will put your mind at ease.

      In other parts of JRC, that’s not necessarily the case, but the money that was saved from eliminating positions stayed “in the newsroom” in the company-wide sense, either at sister publications or in the new Thunderdome operation in New York. Thunderdome will be bulking up our national and thematic coverage in an effort to attract more national advertising and free up local resources that do this now. It will also include resources like a data team that will assist local newspapers on investigative reporting projects.

      As for “painting a pretty picture,” I can’t deny that I’m personally as optimistic as I’ve ever been about the state of the company and our commitment to local news. That being said, of course there are tons of challenges. I’d be happy to talk to you about the day-to-day battles and headaches I face operating in an industry and company that is in a state of rapid and constant change.

      Print ad revenue sucks, and no one is denying that. It makes our mandate to change that much more urgent.

      If this doesn’t answer your questions, please let me know. Happy to continue the dialogue.

      • ConcernedInCT September 6, 2012 at 11:56 am #

        Same number in New Haven? Not what I’ve been told. Torrington is not only down two sports positions, but also a community engagement editor and two weekly reporters. And the Litchfield county Times group is down reporting positions. Even if the number of newsroom positions is even in Connecticut (which I have a hard time believing, but don’t have proof), the fact is that the number of reporting (i.e. news producers) is lower than a year ago.
        If you count the Breaking News Team, that might be OK with you, but you will not find it OK with many of us in the field who are constantly and consistently frustrated by their inattention to detail and the slowness of their reaction times to breaking news. I hear that and see it every day. I know other have brought this to your attention, but nothing changes.
        As far as your optimism goes, it is always those who continue to get promotions who are the optimists in the crowd while the worker bees toil away every day without raises and rarely even a pat on the back for their hard work and dedication to their jobs. We are not optimistic when we hear from our colleagues in advertising how bad ad sales are. We are not optimistic when he see the looks on their faces. We are not optimistic when advertising leadership talks about how far behind budget and last year ad sales are. We are not optimistic when we see colleagues who have not had raises for three years, but their health insurance keeps going up. We are not optimistic when we hear about Thunderdome. We are not optimistic when Mr. Paton disappears from our view except when he has bad news. We are not optimistic when we get emails for consecutive weeks telling us about another high paid corporate position. We are not optimistic when we ask someone who should know about our circulation numbers and we get a blank look. We are not optimistic when we see unqualified people get promotions.
        We are not optimistic, Matt.

      • tgo1967 September 7, 2012 at 12:24 pm #

        What is the actual/real circulation of the NH Register please do not include NIE copies(which all papers use to blster their circ numbers)?
        What is the paper’s plan once the preprint business(The real cash cow of newspapers) finally disappears? Last one out shuts off the lights! LMAO

      • mattderienzo September 7, 2012 at 12:28 pm #

        Print circulation is 74,000. Although pre-prints are still a significant source of advertising revenue at the Register and other daily newspapers, you make a great point. Why do you think our mantra is “digital first.” We’re trying to build a future instead of ignoring these trends.

      • tgo1967 September 8, 2012 at 3:29 pm #

        The “Digital First” strategy is fine if you can execute it correctly. All newspapers were fat & happy thinking that their domination would continue forever – radio, TV, & computers(internet) were no competition. How did that work out!
        Now papers are desparately trying to catch up!
        From what I have seen of the New Haven Register online, the Register’s strategy does not seem to be working. Stories are not updated online even after radio, TV, And sometimes even after Yahoo have updated. You are no longer the news source people turn to. I would guess this problem is caused by a lack of manpower.
        Your Comments Please

      • mattderienzo September 8, 2012 at 3:43 pm #

        I agree 100% with your first two sentences. In our newsrooms in Connecticut, we have been focusing on three key areas – breaking news (which is what you are addressing here), investigative and enterprise reporting, and community engagement. We have shifted print edition-focused copy editing resources to all times of day in order to speed breaking news updates to the web and via SMS alert, social media, etc. You’ll see a further shift as time goes on, as more investment is needed. But it’s not like flipping a switch, because we do have to continue supporting print.

      • tgo1967 September 9, 2012 at 7:34 am #

        I do not understand what you mean by “Continuing to support print” – if your on-line story is updated during the day at the press time for the Register shouldn’t you just be able to print that story? I do not see any addittional work involved.
        Latest News Item On Sunday Sept. 9 Register On-Line 7:30 AM – Tornadoes Warnings For Conn.! Maybe you should warn the US Weather Service!
        That was yesterday’s news!

      • mattderienzo September 9, 2012 at 7:46 am #

        Yes, you are correct, but by “continuing to support print” I mean that it takes people to plan, prepare and lay out print edition pages. We are devoting fewer resources to that today than we used to, but still too much to devote as much staff as we’d like to the rest of the day with attention and focus to web.

  3. mattderienzo September 6, 2012 at 12:07 pm #

    I’m not sure the point you’re trying to make … Would you like me to say, “Everything sucks! You SHOULD be miserable! Let’s give up! Why did we even bother coming to work today?” That’s silly. And I’ll do everything within my power to help you think differently. Beyond that, it’s really up to you and how you view the world, the job, yourself, and the potential of the news business.

    We share the same goal – I think – to make our local journalism better. And while there has been some out-of-our-control “un-bundling” of product and advertising sales potential, I still believe that better journalism will improve our reputation in the community, improve our readership and ultimately improve ad sales. That’s what we can do to help those discouraged ad reps.

    One thing that’s hard to separate sometimes – but necessary for your own sanity and the culture of the newsroom – is the difference between strategy and how some of your colleagues may be executing it. At the end of the day, you’re responsible only for your own performance, and those you supervise (if you are a supervisor …). If someone else’s performance is affecting yours negatively, of course, please tell me about it.

    • ConcernedInCT September 6, 2012 at 12:30 pm #

      I’m not trying to get you to say anything in particular. Those who work for JRC would much rather we be told the truth, however, instead of management trying to paint a rosy picture. We’re smart people. We can handle it. If management were actually engaged with employees, it (including you) might learn something.You might know how we feel. You might know how hard we work and know our frustrations without hearing them here. You might get some ideas other than your own that might make some sense for the future of our individual newsrooms and maybe even for the company.
      We talk about reader engagement all the time, but how much time do you spend truly engaged with those who work for you? Think about that. When we see you your eyes are buried in your laotop or ipad or you are on the phone. Even when you are here, you are never here. Never. (5 minutes talking to someone does not count as being here.)
      I am going to lay out a challenge to you. Close your laptop, turn off your ipad. Don’t take a phone call that is not from your boss. When you come to our newsrooms, do that for at least two hours every visit. Talk to us. I don’t mean idle chitchat. Talk to us. Listen to us. Ask our opinions. And if you don’t think we are being straight up honest with you, say so. Hammer us. Engage with us. You might learn something. I know the rest of us would welcome it and would make us at least feel like you care about t=what we think and what ideas we might have. We are smart people.

      • mattderienzo September 6, 2012 at 12:32 pm #

        Great comment, and challenge accepted! Hold me to it/call me out on it publicly if I don’t follow through.

      • Jordan Fenster September 10, 2012 at 11:25 am #

        Wait – I’m sorry I just don’t get this challenge. The head of three dailies, gobs of weeklies, magazines and websites for all should not take phone calls? Not check email? Huh? How would that benefit anybody, employees included?
        You want my boss to harangue me for two hours every day and, if I wave my hand dismissively he should, as you put it, “hammer” me? This is not what I want my boss to do. I want to be left alone to do the best job I can. If I have questions, I’ll ask. I am not a child. I don’t need two hours of supervisor therapy to make me feel good about my job.
        I get a lot of the concern here — I am concerned too — but get over it. If you think your job is in danger, send out some resumes. If not, hunker down and do a good job.

      • mattderienzo September 10, 2012 at 11:28 am #

        Nice try, Jordan, but I’ll continue to harangue you.

      • ConcernedInCT September 10, 2012 at 5:06 pm #

        Maybe Mr. Fenster would like to try his reading and comprehension skills again.
        Apparently Mr. DeRienzo gets the challenge. It is only important that he gets it.

    • Concerned in CT jr. September 6, 2012 at 7:02 pm #

      If your goal is to make local journalism better, then the first step should be hiring more reporters, and then paying them what they are worth.

      This company has too many bosses that sit around and think up new buzz words and campaigns…”Digital First, Thunderdome, Newsroom Cafe.”

      Whatever happened to good old fashioned reporting? Too busy collecting bogus awards to inflate egos. Go into Torrington and look at that cafe…there is never anyone there.

      • ConcernedInCT September 6, 2012 at 7:25 pm #

        Oh, there are people in the cafe. They are teenagers using the “blogging stations” to play games and go on FaceBook. They are homeless. They are watching television. They are stealing.
        They are not engaging with the news room. They are not engaging with the advertising department.
        I don’t disagree with the idea of the open newsroom. I do disagree with putting one in an awful part of town where the only foot traffic is the foot traffic you don’t want and setting up a dangerous situation for our colleagues. Some of us are big enough to take care of ourselves. Some are not.
        Let’s hope someone in New haven is smart enough to NOT put their open newsroom in a ghetto.

  4. tgo1967 September 7, 2012 at 12:01 pm #

    Alden Global running the bankruptcy scam> They knew full well the legacy debts invloved when the purchased JRC and are now looking to dodge legally incurred debt and filing for bankruptcy. If the courts had any balls they would throw the bankruptcy filing out.

  5. Aaron C September 9, 2012 at 2:44 pm #

    As a former employee of this company I know The journal register and the Troy record Sucks. the company demoralizes its employees and keeps them in the dark until one day they come into work and discover their jobs are being cut. employee pensions get cut meanwhile company execs get bonuses?

    • mattderienzo September 9, 2012 at 2:47 pm #

      Not going to argue about JRC of past … Not sure if you were around at all for the John Paton era, but his transparency has been night and day compared to previous leaders and leaders of other companies. And as my post says, the pensions are guaranteed by the PBGC, and so that should not affect employees. Also, Paton has specifically said that there will not be any bonuses for execs as part of this restructuring.

      • guest September 9, 2012 at 4:17 pm #

        It could almost be considered true karma for the JRC ledership group that has made a great living sticking it to its workers, running false headlines, and fostering a community culture of negativity with the so called “open news room.

        The only problem in this news are the ones who have skirted responsibility will not feel the pain of the bankruptcy. Instead it will be the workers who are laid off, the debts not paid (to honest firms), and the long term obligations reduced. Mr. Derienzo needs to state that a great system has been established which lacks accountability. If you cant run a profitable business because the public no longer wants your commodity then you should go out of business.

      • mattderienzo September 9, 2012 at 4:28 pm #

        Except that the company is very profitable, and has outperformed the rest of the industry. This is about debt, pension and lease obligations, not about profit and loss of operating budgets. The public has shown huge demand in that our online audience has grown tremendously, and our online revenue has outpaced the rest of the industry.

      • tgo1967 September 9, 2012 at 6:32 pm #

        If the company is as profitable as you claim and outperforming the rest of the industry – Why file for bankrupty?

      • mattderienzo September 10, 2012 at 10:28 am #

        Because of debt and lease and pension obligations. Other companies are faced with exactly the same problem, or worse, and it is only a matter of time before they take a similar approach.

      • tgo1967 September 10, 2012 at 10:35 am #

        So in effect, you are a saying a profitable company should be allowed to skip out on its’ legally incurred debts and obligations. Even though this action may cause othe companies or individuals to fail. I fnd it insulting that your company would make any claim to protect the public interest through its’ reporting of the news when it acts so immorally.

      • tgo1967 September 11, 2012 at 8:16 am #

        Where are Matt?

        Concept of Newsroom Cafe – people come in interact with reports, ad people etc.
        Reality – Most people who JRC would want to interact with are working or running their businesses during the day and go home to their families at night. That leaves retirees, unemployed, homeless and kids coming into the newsroom cafes. They can stay warm or cool in JRC cafe, watch TV, use bathrooms and computers. Do you serve refreshments?

        Idea sounds good but I don’t think anyone really thought it out completely

  6. sampiroton September 10, 2012 at 4:16 pm #

    @TGO1967 i don’t know what to say. it is the law. so be it. i don’t say it’s “cool” for a company to enter bankruptcy, it is not. But it is allowed. And JRC has nothing to do with that fact. And, for once, i’d like everyone to pause, step in the shoes of John Paton. If it is legal, if (as for now) it can help stabilize the long term perspective for the company, what would you do? Do it, or run the business “as it was and ever has been”?

    I do not have the numbers, i do not suffer from this as i am completely a stranger to the company. And i don’t pretend JRC is run smoothly. It’s a fast paced environment, and when you read about how digital dollars are replacing print dollars (1 to 25) , you cannot be blind any longer.

    • tgo1967 September 11, 2012 at 8:04 am #

      I did not say it was illegal but if JRC is as Mr. Derieinzo states “A very profitable” company it certainly strikes me as immoral. Newspapers have portrayed themselves as guardians of the public trust and JRC files bankruptcy to reduce or eliminate legal financial obligations.
      JRC had been recently purchased by Alden Global. Alden must have done its’ due dilegence and known of JRC’s “legacy debts & obligations” and they still bought JRC. It appears the Alden’s plan from the start was to purchase JRC, Wait a few months, & file bankruptcy. This would eliminate or reduce the debt, screw the debt holders & retirees and turn a profit for Alden. This would have made from CEO Bob Jelenic proud.

  7. ConcernedInCT September 10, 2012 at 4:59 pm #

    Jumping back in here.
    If the company is “very profitable” then the bankruptcy court should toss this case today. “Very profitable” companies don’t file bankruptcy. Period. Maybe Mr. DeRienzo might like to take a basic economics class. Then maybe he would stop trying to feed us all the company line and just admit he knows next to nothing about the entire process.
    To say that JRC has outperformed the rest of the industry might look good when you write it but that is nothing to brag about. Have you actually seen the numbers? Print advertising dollars are in double digit declines while digital dollars are increasing only modestly. That is a fact and widely reported. So if JRC is doing better than the rest of the industry, the company is still in trouble,
    JRC (and maybe the rest of the industry) has not conducted itself in a financially prudent manner since the first round of bankruptcies. That is clear. They entered into leases that were not smart. They have failed to hasten their move to digital instead of this agonizingly slow “transition” that will end up being the death of the industry we all love. And least we all once loved it. They have added to their corporate structure. They have turned over customer service and delivery functions to outsiders who simply do not care about our future. (They continue to get paid no matter how badly they function.
    I cannot even address the JRC problems outside my own state, but JRC in Connecticut is simply a disaster. Ad sales, I am told, are horrible and from looking at our print editions and our websites I have no reason to believe otherwise. Morale across the board is horrible. Newsrooms are a mess as you, Mr. DeRienzo, refuse to let people do their jobs while you throw your latest gimmicks in their way. (Think Digital Ninja School here. Conceptually it is nice, but despite your continued expectations that people take time from their daily routines to earn their so called belts the reality is that we all have jobs to do. I would rather get yelled at for not earning a belt and a few dollars and than have my boss yell at me for not completing an assignment. That is reality. Digital Ninja School is a fantasy.) Newsrooms are also a mess because you have reallocated resources into non productive roles that do not same any of us time or energy. I’ll go back to the dysfunctional breaking new teams again. I have no idea if New Haven will speak their minds on this, but ask the editors of your small papers for their take. Ask them for an honest assessment. If they are honest, you’ll find out how much worth that idea has been to them. It is not much as they (and we) have to spend more time fixing their mistakes that the time it would have take us to post the stories in the first place.
    I will close with this. JRC Connecticut has lost the confidence of its readership. JRC Connecticut has apparently lost the confidence of its advertisers. And the worst of all, JRC Connecticut management has lost the confidence of its employees. And speaking of management, what does Mr. Wiley do? We have not seen him and have not heard from him in months. (If you tell me he is too busy to get out of his office and visit those of us in the field, then I know he is just hiding from the realities we all see every day.)
    I’m not in upper management, but I hope to be someday. The main good thing coming out of my experience here is that I am seeing very clearly how not to run a business.

    • Ed McKeon September 11, 2012 at 4:13 pm #

      Matt,

      I can’t blame you for being optimistic, considering your position and the options, but I’d advise reading this: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/sep/10/journal-register-chapter-11-digital-first, before you decide for yourself if Alden Global Capital gives a rat’s ass about the New Haven Register, the Middletown Press or the Torrington Register, much less the glorious all-digital future. John Paton has been and will be rewarded whatever happens, good or bad. Read Matt Taibbi’s article about Bain Capital in Rolling Stone for background. The leveraged investors and the executives who play along, always come out with money in their pockets.

      As for the Pension Guarantee Corp, it only covers defined pension plans, not 401k-type plans, and while the JR may have no one near the upper limits, it will penalize those future pensioners who are not yet 65, and often severely. And by off-loading pensions, JR would essentially be burning down the house to collect the insurance money.

      Those “legacy debts and obligations,” are all debts owed to someone who isn’t going to get paid off, just so the hedge funds can line their pockets. A real journalist would dig deeper on this, and give less lip service to the bosses who are happy to have you carry their water.

      • mattderienzo September 11, 2012 at 4:49 pm #

        Ed,
        I read the Michael Wolff piece yesterday, and I’d ask, where’s the beef? We learned that John Paton is “friendly and bearded,” we learned that Michael Wolff doesn’t like advisory boards, and we learned that hedge funds jockey for better position in restructuring debt. None of that is news to me.
        No one believes Alden Global Capital will be a long-term owner of newspapers such as The Middletown Press or New Haven Register – or I don’t, anyway. But they’ve bought into a management strategy that is transitioning newsrooms and advertising departments to digital more rapidly and more radically than much of the newspaper industry. And I believe in that strategy. I also am very appreciative of John Paton’s emphasis on journalism and investing in it since he took over as CEO. That’s a huge change for our company, and rare and powerful coming right from the CEO’s office.
        The strategy, I’m sure, is designed for Alden to exit their ownership of the company some day with a profit for their investors. But to exit, they’ll have to convince eventual buyers that we’ve built something that is valuable and has a long-term future. I think that value will be local journalism that serves communities and readers well, and a local advertising base, among other potential revenue streams, that feeds off that service.
        I don’t know all the ins and outs of the pension stuff, but I’m confident we won’t be the last company (newspaper and in other industries) that must confront the defined pension plan time bomb. Like many other companies, we stopped contributing to those pensions and switched to a 401(k) system some years ago.

    • mattderienzo September 11, 2012 at 4:31 pm #

      Again, “very profitable” on an operating budget doesn’t necessarily mean solvent in terms of long-term obligations and debt. For example, if you ran a restaurant that brought in $500,000 annual profit, that is, bringing in that much more revenue from food than you pay out in expenses for paying waiters, purchasing supplies, buying insurance, etc., but you owed $5 million to a pension fund that was created when you used to own a chain of restaurants that brought in 10 times the revenue, you would be a candidate for a bankruptcy restructuring.
      If you care about local journalism being around for a long time to come, you’d want something like this process to put the company on the right footing. The “very profitable” on an operating basis is important because, indeed, the “digital first” plan has worked better than the rest of the industry, and without all of the issues being addressed in bankruptcy, we are doing pretty well at making the transition.
      Regarding Digital Ninja School, part of the transition – a big part – is learning new skills and incorporating them on the job. We came up with a program that is designed to free you up to do that – and to pay you extra money for participating. A key part of an editor’s job, one that many struggle with, is to tell you what NOT to do, what not to cover. The fact is that regardless of staffing, we make decisions like that every day. We need to prioritize and make time for training, no question. And we have 115 or so newsroom employees in Connecticut. I’d love it if there were more, but the fact is, that’s enough to spread the essential day-to-day stuff around to make time for everyone to complete training.
      As for the rest, please let me know how I’m refusing to let you do your job. Seriously, not being sarcastic about that. I’d like to know the obstacles that you are facing, and if it’s easier for you to be frank about that as an anonymous commenter, that’s fine with me.

      • tgo1967 September 11, 2012 at 7:42 pm #

        JRC restructured in 2009. Alden bought JRC in 2010 or 2011 I believe. They are smart folks and did their due diligence. They knew in advance of the legacy debts and the declining ad revenue and ciculation decline, both of which were in a downward spiral with no end in sight. Alden’s plan from the beginning was to buy JRC, wait a few months, and file bankruptcy to rid themselves of some portion or possibly all the legacy debts. Not legal but certainly immoral.

      • tgo1967 September 11, 2012 at 7:45 pm #

        Correction: I meant certainly not illegal but immoral.

      • tgo1967 September 15, 2012 at 9:21 pm #

        Where are you Matt? Questions too hard?

      • tgo1967 September 15, 2012 at 9:22 pm #

        Where are you Matt? Hiding?

      • mattderienzo September 16, 2012 at 8:12 am #

        Sorry, I didn’t see any questions in your last comment. What do you feel is unanswered?

  8. tgo1967 September 12, 2012 at 6:38 pm #

    Alden Global watched TVand all those real estate flipper shows and figured out you could buy distressed businesses and flip them by filing bankruptcy and making them look look profitable again.

  9. John force November 19, 2012 at 11:21 am #

    Journal register made 40 million last year and payed out employee bonuses,yet filed for bankruptcy?

    • tgo1967 November 21, 2012 at 8:35 am #

      Alden Global watched TVand all those real estate flipper shows and figured out you could buy distressed businesses and flip them by filing bankruptcy and making them look look profitable again.

      Businesses that sold goods or services to JRC in good faith and now are getting the shaft! They will be paid pennies on the dollar and worst may be forced into bankruptcy themselves.

      Worst part of this is that it is completely legal!!! Bankruptcy laws need to be reformed now!

  10. Reija Helkovaara December 11, 2012 at 8:20 am #

    Good explanation i am agree that many of people don’t know that is bankruptcy is.In Finland country there are some services that professionalizing bankruptcy and debt restructuring which many of business really got a benefit from it.Well thanks for sharing it to us.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Financial maneuvers won’t slow Digital First progress « The Buttry Diary - September 6, 2012

    [...] update: Josh Benton of Nieman Lab, Rick Edmonds of Poynter, Jeff Jarvis and Matt DeRienzo, Digital First’s cluster editor for New England and New York, have written thoughtful [...]

  2. What bankruptcy means for Journal Register Company newsrooms | A Day Without Photos - September 6, 2012

    [...] via What bankruptcy means for Journal Register Company newsrooms « Connecticut Newsroom. [...]

  3. Bitterness is like wreaking revenge on yourself « The Buttry Diary - September 8, 2012

    [...] I think I have had a lot in common with the journalists, some of them clearly former Journal Register employees, who lashed out at our company or our CEO in comments recently about the company’s Chapter 11 filing. You can read a sampling at the end of my blog post on the bankruptcy or on Jim Romenesko’s or Josh Benton’s or Matt DeRienzo’s. [...]

  4. New Journalism = Design For Manufacturability #DFM - September 11, 2012

    [...] did Matt DeRienzo (no relation), I’ll start by saying I can comfortably write this post because my company is [...]

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