Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Business Wednesday


U.S. Steel is weighing sale offers.  No timetable is set.  I do check the Pittsburgh newspapers just about every day, and there is considerable concern out west that a sale will mean a reduced U.S. Steel presence in the city.  It's another "wait and see" situation.  One can only hope the board of directors and the shareholders do the right thing.  But, just remember, U.S. Steel is a business, not a charity.  It's supposed to make money.

At least a half dozen AM radio stations went off the air last week.  There are essentially two reasons.  The first-- they are losing money.  The second-- the owners realize the land occupied by the tower is worth more than the station itself.

I am very hesitant to weigh in on the situation with our friends down the street, because there is still much that isn't known.  As you may have heard, the Scranton Times Tribune, the Pottsville Republican, the Wilkes-Barre Citizens Voice,  and the Hazleton Standard Speaker have been sold to an investment group.  A look at its track record shows a history of cutting jobs, and therefore reducing local journalism.  I'm already hearing horror stories from the locals.  Some newspaper employees have expressed their concern, and anger, on social media.  Pay cuts.  Loss of vacation time.

When I was a radio pup, spending a lot of time at the Lackawanna County Courthouse, I marveled at the skills of Fran D'Andrea, Pat McKenna and others.  Tom Staff had a handle on city hall up the street, and Bill Halpin knew everything that was going on inside the federal building on North Washington Avenue.   I mean EVERYTHING!  The same goes for Frank Scholz, who left us several years ago. I've known Dave Singleton and Borys Krawczeniuk for more than thirty years.   Rich Mates, now retired, was always a fun read.   I respect them all.

The newspaper industry in general, and local papers in particular, have struggled in recent years.  You can tell.  All the signs are there.  Headline fonts are larger.  Photos are bigger.  It's all to disguise the fact that there are fewer stories.  Craig's List killed the classifieds.  The Sunday paper was a "must" for coupon clippers.  Many of those are gone.  The same goes for the circulars.  It is a much thinner paper.

We all hope for the best, but the handwriting is on the wall.

It just makes me sad.

And, before I go, a few words about local versus out of out of town control of a newspaper, tv station or radio station.  I spent nearly 11 years at WARM.  The home office was in York, and we did much more community service than the radio stations that were headquartered in Scranton or Wilkes-Barre.  When I was at WYOU, we were owned by a wonderful, family company in Bangor, Maine.  We did parades, a high school football game of the week, helped build a Habitat for Humanity home, the Easter Seals telethon, and several other things.  WNEP has been under a few different owners in my 25+ years.  The home office has been in New York, Chicago, suburban Cincinnati, and now in McLean, Virginia.  St. Joseph's Telethon?  Still there.  Feed a Friend?  Still there.  Endless promotion of community fund raisers?  Still there.  Promoting the work of Allied Services?  Still there.  We've given out thousands of smoke alarms.  We've helped find furever homes for pets in shelters.  The Super 16 Dream Team.

The location of the home office is irrelevant.  The location of your heart is.