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WARREN BUFFETT CAN'T SAVE LEE FROM QUARTERLY DECLINE

A few weeks ago, word leaked that Warren Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway had snapped up a bunch of shares of Lee Enterprises stock as part of an overall newspaper-stock-portfolio enhancement. The theory: They figured newspaper stocks were undervalued and looked to turn a tidy profit by buying low, low, low.

And in the case of Lee, the Davenport, Iowa-based company that owns (in a partnership with Gannett) the Arizona Daily Star, it was about as low as it can go while maintaining the minimum $1 requirement for placement on the New York Stock Exchange. When the Buffett announcement was made public, investors jumped on the stock, and it ballooned to about $1.80.

Since then, the balloon has been losing air. It didn't help that Lee's third-quarter report showed yet another loss: The publishing outlet suffered a $1.4 million decline for the three-month period that ended June 24. On one hand, that's way better than the $115 million it lost in the same quarter a year ago, but on the other hand, much of that loss had to do with a debt arrangement that pushed Lee to a structured bankruptcy settlement. This loss is post-bankruptcy.

Furthermore, actual revenue was down, from $187 million last year to $179 million in 2012.

"In nearly all our markets, the slow economic recovery seems to start and stall unpredictably, producing erratic overall revenue results from month to month," said Lee Chairman and CEO Mary Junck in a quote from a press release that reads an awful lot like a bunch of other quotes from Lee financial press releases. "In May, for example, total revenue equaled a year ago, making it our best month since December 2006. It was sandwiched between less-desirable results in April and June, producing quarterly totals nearer the year-to-date trend."

Lee also rolled out online subscription (aka paywall) models for 11 more papers and figures to move closer to setting up the template for most of its publications—presumably including the Arizona Daily Star—before the year is out.

Lee stock traded at $1.28 on Monday, July 23.


O'DELL JUMPS TO 'ARIZONA REPUBLIC'

Rob O'Dell, who most recently handled computer-assisted reporting duties at the Arizona Daily Star prior to a stint as the paper's city-budget and Rio Nuevo reporter, has accepted a multi-faceted position with The Arizona Republic.

"It is a great opportunity for me. I am really impressed with the Republic," said O'Dell via e-mail. "The position is senior investigative reporter/computer assisted reporter. I get to work on my own stories and will collaborate with reporters covering county, state and federal government, politics, real estate, border and immigration, among others. I will also train younger reporters on computer-assisted reporting."

O'Dell worked for the North County Times near San Diego and Ohio's Hamilton Journal-News before joining the Star in 2005.

"My time at the Star was great. I really enjoyed it," O'Dell said. "I worked with a number of great people and worked on many, many stories I am really proud of."


AZPM ADDS MORNING HOSTS, UNVEILS PLANS FOR FUTURE (SORT OF)

Arizona Public Media, the public-broadcasting outlet housed at the UA, has hired a morning host/newscaster and associate director of development.

John Weaver now occupies the morning host/newscaster role for the organization's NPR affiliate. Weaver spent seven years with Minnesota Public Radio before accepting the Tucson relocation.

Enrique Aldana has been tabbed as Arizona Public Media's new associate director of development, a fundraising position. Aldana spent eight years as an advertising sales manager with Tucson Newspapers and its predecessor companies prior to the new gig.

The Weekly also obtained a copy of a July 3 company memo by general manager Jack Gibson. In it, he references a then-pending July 5 Media Watch article regarding the dismissal of long-time reporter Robert Rappaport and vaguely outlines the organization's future plans.

"As you may already know, last week, we informed longtime employee Robert Rappaport that his annual contract would not be renewed. You may hear rumblings in the community (or hallways) about 'layoffs.' There are no other planned reductions in workforce at AZPM. In fact, we have several open positions we are working to fill (see below). Non-renewals are always 'unsettling,' and our policy is not to comment publicly on personnel/employment issues to protect the privacy of the individual. Unfortunately, I suspect you will read or hear more about this transition in the coming days and weeks. I also suspect that the 'facts' will be 'limited,'" said the memo, which incorporates a curious use of quotations.

Perhaps the "facts" were "limited" because AZPM largely hid behind the classic "no comment" veil.

The memo continued with a brushstroke approach toward its continuing pursuit of online-related content.

"As part of our strategic realignment, AZPM management decided to consolidate radio announcing and 'newscasting' duties to allow us to redeploy precious (and limited) resources to our growing online activities and Arizona Illustrated v2.0 (launching January 2013). We have been piloting this consolidated news approach with NPR 89.1 morning host Steve Shadley since March. Our NPR 89.1 afternoon announcer Dan Kruse will continue to host afternoons and has begun to deliver the news as well."

With Weaver's arrival, Shadley has been reassigned to a producer/reporter position. "I want to publicly thank Steve for 'stepping up' and for working with us to try out the consolidated host/newscaster role," the memo continued.

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