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JAMESON RESIGNS AS TUCSON NEWSPAPERS CEO

Mike Jameson’s nearly seven-year stint as CEO of Tucson Newspapers Inc. came to an end Monday, Nov. 15, according to joint statements from TNI and publishing entities Gannett and Lee Enterprises.

Jameson accepted the position in January 2004 after acting as publisher of the La Crosse Tribune, a Lee-owned newspaper in Wisconsin.

Lee and Gannett control TNI in a joint-operating capacity that dates back to an agreement to join business forces and split profits from the Arizona Daily Star, which Lee publishes, and the Tucson Citizen, the Gannett-owned afternoon daily that ceased publication in May 2009. Jameson took over at a time when the economy hadn’t yet taken a negative toll on the business model, although afternoon dailies were already in decline.

Jameson was involved in many community organizations, including TREO (Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities), the Tucson Chamber of Commerce and United Way. Gannett and Lee say they are in the process of selecting a replacement.

Efforts to reach Jameson for comment were unsuccessful as of our press deadline.


LEE PROFITS INCREASE, LARGELY ON BASIS OF CUTS

The removal of more than 2,000 employees in the last two years—more than 22 percent of the workforce—has played a major role in allowing Lee Enterprises, publisher of the Arizona Daily Star, to report a profit of $5.2 million for the quarter that ended in September. That’s up from $1.8 million during the same period the year before.

Most of the financial improvement is payroll-related. Lee is still noting declines in advertising sales and circulation revenue. Revenue for the quarter fell to $188.7 million, down 3.7 percent, and is reminiscent of a similar slip in the previous quarter. Lee’s ad revenue, $134.3 million, represented a 4.4 percent decline. Circulation revenue dipped 1.4 percent to $44.6 million.

In 2007, Lee had a reported 9,250 employees, but as it got slammed by the two-pronged monster that has plagued the industry—the Internet and the recession—the Davenport, Iowa-based company pared its payroll to 7,200.

While Lee has recorded profits in most quarters over the last two years, it still faces major hurdles in the not-too-distant future due to restructured backend debt that allowed it to buy some time during the downturn.

Investors aren’t holding out much hope for future of the industry as a whole. Last month, U.S. credit-ratings agency Moody’s Investors Services lowered its outlook for the American newspaper industry from stable to negative.

Moody’s expects revenue from the traditional newspaper model to decline by 5 to 6 percent each of the next two years. That’s better than the 22 percent hit suffered in 2009, but “the industry’s longer-term secular deterioration is returning to the forefront,” said Moody’s vice president John Puchalla. “Even in a slowly growing economy, the erosion of newspapers’ readership share and pricing power continues unabated as readers embrace free and low-cost content on the Web and mobile devices.”

Regarding Lee, investors seem concerned. During the market’s recent upturn, Lee stock made a nice recovery. It sold in the 30 cent range and faced the threat of possible delisting in the market’s dark days, but it bounced back to more than $4 within the last year. However, it has settled into the $2 range. Lee stock traded at $2.15 on Nov. 8, the day of its quarterly profit announcement, but had dipped below the $2 threshold by Nov. 15.


CABLE AND SATELLITE NUMBERS ALSO ON THE DECLINE

Other media outlets aren’t without their warts. For the second straight quarter, cable-TV and satellite-TV subscriptions declined. That’s a first for both entities.

The pay-for-TV industry and Nielsen data claim the downturn—a 324,000 subscriber loss over the last two quarters—is economy-related, and there’s a growing concern over so-called cord-cutting: viewers utilizing products by streaming outlets such as Netflix or hulu.com.

Subscription revenue is the most significant income stream for many cable/satellite television networks, but cord-cutting might be hitting the premium channels hardest. HBO is facing a subscription decrease of 1.5 million viewers, much of which appears to be Netflix related. There’s also a push in the industry to build a concept called “TV Everywhere,” a Web-based subscription system for cable channels that can only be accessed by subscribers.

Some suggest that countermeasure to the Netflix model might be an indication that the industry is more concerned than it’s letting on.


GERMS, GERMS, EVERYWHERE GERMS!

There’s an additional entertainment aspect when local TV news enters the sweeps period, which is coming to a close for the November ratings book next week.

There’s a big push to try to find stories and angles designed to grip the viewer just a bit more than normal. You also get the trickle-down effect of what’s scored well in larger markets. For instance, features on how to detect if the spouse is having an affair have made the rounds on a couple of stations in recent books.

But in terms of overexposure, germ stories are probably at the top of the heap. The setup works something like this. “You might think these areas are clean, but we’ll show you just where the germs are hiding!

Thanks to local news and sweeps, I’ve learned that germs are on the counter, on the refrigerator handle, on grocery carts and in my car. I’ve also learned that resident germ expert Dr. Charles Gerba gets about as much face time as the local anchors do when the stations pull out all the stops.

I’m aware that legendary germophobe Howard Hughes set up shop with a certain defense-contracting outfit in the Old Pueblo, but did he fake his death yet again and purchase every TV station in the market?

To review: Germs are bad. And they’re everywhere. Oh, and I guess they could kill me.

Thanks. I think I’m up to speed.

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