I think it’s time to start the newspaper bailout countdown clock. A few weeks ago, I joked that it wouldn’t be long until the junky New York Times started crawling to the government for a handout. Now, with the Fed waving its magic wand and redefining American Express as a “bank holding company,” with insurers and Hollywood getting a cut of the Crap Sandwich 2.0, with indebted state governments looking for help, and with China lobbying and with automakers poised to get a bigger piece of the action, my joke isn’t so funny anymore.
Will it be the NYTimes or Tribune that makes the first plea? Here’s the latest on Tribune’s cash troubles:
Tribune CEO Sam Zell’s entry in the understatement of the week contest: “We are operating in an exceptionally difficult financial and economic environment.” True, but Tribune’s problems stretch back further and go deeper than backlash from the current economy. The company reported a Q3 loss of $124 million Monday, compared with earnings of $84 million for the same period last year. Compared with Q307, revenues declined 10 percent, to $1 billion, while operating cash flow dropped 67 percent year over year. But Zell isn’t understating anything when he talks of how aggressively Tribune is moving, as evidenced by the $45 million charge for severance and termination benefits. Nearly all of that went to reducing publishing headcount; overall, the company cut the equivalent of 1,300 full-time positions.
Every last corporate special interest and imperiled business has some water-carrier in Congress arguing that they’re “essential to the economy” and “too big to fail.”
I’m tellin’ ya: It won’t be long before the dying newspaper industry starts clamoring for our money because we can’t live without them.
Tick, tick, tick…
Total spent on bailout-palooza to date: $3 trillion and counting…
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