Feb 17, 2006

Block Hints Blade and Post-Gazette May Be Sold


(Toledo, OH) Alan Block, chairman of the board of Block Communications, told Editor and Publisher that the Toledo Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette may be sold if cost reductions cannot be found to return the papers to profitability.

"If we can't operate profitably, there is a good chance we could be sold," he said. "It is a business and it has to be a good investment for our shareholders."

The Blade recently announced the closing of its Washington news bureau, which also provides services to the Post-Gazette; the bureau was integral in developing the Pulitzer Pize winning "Tiger Force" series.

"It all began in our Washington Bureau," said Michael Sallah, investigations editor at the Miami Herald and a former Blade reporter. "That's what later [won] the Pulitzer Prize."

Block believes that the union contracts at the two papers "are not in line with very much of the rest of the industry. Even compared to other union newspapers we have bad labor agreements that are not acceptable." All eight of the Blade's unions are in contract negotiations this year, according to Block.

The underlying implication is that both papers are bleeding red ink, though Block would not disclose profitability numbers to Editor and Publisher.

"It is not a fiduciary business to subsidize a company," he said. "We are not going to subsidize operations."

More as it develops....


Lisa Renee said...

Block's comments occurred just days after negotiations began with the Toledo Newspaper Guild, according to a notice on the union's Web site. The notice stated that negotiations with management for a new contract began on Feb. 9. The current contract ends March 21.

The union is proposing a three-year deal, with a 6% raise the first year and 4% raises for each of the following two years, according to the notice, which adds that a three-year wage freeze has been in effect at the paper.

Block would not comment on any Blade management proposals, but the guild Web site contends that the paper is seeking a wage cut, increased health benefit costs, and vacation cuts. Block said the guild is one of eight unions at the Toledo paper involved in contract negotiations this year.

So is it really selling or making it look like things are really really bad so agree to our terms so we don't have to sell....

Timing is suspect in my opinion.

liberal_dem said...

If it does indeed go under, then our area has lost a very valuable resource: an independent newspaper.

If one of those giant media hogs assumes the Blade, the 'news' which it reports and the 'opinions' which it posts will serve the needs of the corporate media rather than the needs of our community.

Sadly, there will be whoops and hollers erupting from some segments of our population who havedisdained the Blade for years and who, in fact, have been calling for the demise of the Blade on a regular basis.

Let's see just how happy these critics will be when the corporate media takes over.

historymike said...

Could be a union contract negotiating ploy, Lisa.

And I agree, liberal dem, that despite the Blade's so-called Block agenda (and my occasional irritation at the Blade powers-that-be) they do some damned fine investigative journalism from time to time.

-Sepp said...

My bet is that this is a scare tactic for the unions. The blade does have a handfull of good reporters that could probably do a lot better than working for the Blocks. I'll agree (gasp) with liberal dem that losing an independent paper and having it replaced with a "media hog" would be a shame. On the flip side, I must admit that I too am sick of the outright bias in the reporting. Some "news" gets reported while other news is intentionaly omitted depending on the person's relationship with the powers that be on Superior st. The alledged incident with Frank Szollosi telling Bob McCloskey that his friends at the blade would go easy on him is just one example. Just report the damn news.

Stephanie said...

I would tend to agree with Lisa. This sounds like a ploy.

historymike said...

Yes, I am not too quick to think that the McDonaldization of the media is a good thing.

I have my own beefs with the Blade (both personal and political), but they are one of the few truly independent voices left out there.

If they get bought up by a conglomerate were are just going to get a bland McPaper that uses mostly wire service articles and syndicated columnists that we can read elsewhere.

Kathy said...

I lived in the Pittsburgh area for years and still read the Post-Gazette. The paper leans left and prints some tough editorials. It would be a shame to see it get sold and become just one more mouthpiece for the right.