It’s Sad. News belongs to the bean counters.
March 27, 2013
Once upon a time in a big city in a big state there was a big newspaper that had a big, big readership.
Most of those in its circulation area – which was vast – subscribed. It had impact. Advertisers faithfully supported it.
Watching from afar in a distant big city was a big media company that saw the big newspaper and envied its big, big value and shelled out a big, big basket full of beans to take possession of it.
And then one big company after another came along, looked with big favor on the newspaper and shelled out even more beans to buy it from the previous owner.
But with each outlay after outlay of big beans came the bean counters, whose main purpose was to maintain above all else a corporate smile-inducing bottom line, and they quickly set out to keep as many of the profit beans as they possibly could that the big newspaper produced and sent them along to the corporate Chief Bean Counter in the distant big city.
And so, predictably and incrementally and with regularity, the bean counters – the bottom line watchers – found more and more ways to keep more and more of the profit beans from the big city newspaper.
They made it happen with staff buyouts, layoffs, pay cuts, furloughs and other cost-slashing steps they thought to be prudent if not ingenious. For good measure, they even sold off assets – buildings and parking lots and such.
Plus, of course, they raised subscription and advertising rates, which yielded more beans.
The Chief Bean Counter in the distant city smiled and told the local newspaper bean counters:
“Well done, o’ good and faithful bottom line watchers.”
Still, the now smaller and smaller and surely discouraged yet professional and energetic staff of the big newspaper in the big city loyally soldiered on, running faster and faster and faster – as bean counter instructions dictated.
Yet all the while the staff members were distracted, kept busy warily watching over their shoulders for the hotly-pursuing, insensitive bean counters with their threatening, slashing cost-cutting knives at the ready and ever so close behind.
And the bean counting, bottom line watchers smiled once more and patted themselves on the executive back, for they had done their jobs so well and again had assured the desired bottom line goal was met.
And the attendant regular transfer of profit beans to the Chief Bean Counter in the big distant city newspaper headquarters was maintained.
So, for a time, the big newspaper in the big city in the big state rested securely – almost arrogantly – on its laurels, for its glorious, respected past had made it possible to do so.
But then one day those who paid to have the newspaper brought to their homes began to take notice they were paying more and more for less and less. To realize the quality and quantity of it were slipping faster and faster. To correctly, instinctively know it was no longer good value for money and that the newspaper was taking from the community and its readers so much, much inordinately more than it gave.
Shortchanged, they came to think of it.
And so one by one and then two by two and then in growing, collective numbers they bade the now-not-so-big newspaper – their trusty ol’ journalistic friend, indeed once their newsy neighbor, their informative pal –goodbye.
Only then did the bean counters even begin to understand that the
tactics used to extract more and more beans from the once-big newspaper had led all of the bean counters into a calamitous, quagmire land they clearly misjudged and little understood.
And from which they could not disentangle and extract themselves.
For their eyes had been too much and single-mindedly and, yes, selfishly affixed to bottom line profits that could be spirited away to the Chief Bean Counter back at the big newspaper corporate headquarters in the distant city for use in other places and in other ways at the expense of the now-smaller, ever shrinking big city newspaper in the big state.
So much so that, sadly, the once-proud big newspaper in the big city in the big state was inextricably and unmistakably and most assuredly far, far, far on its way to losing its once-respected, influential place.
And, along with it, losing its, uh, bottom.