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Owner of SLO Tribune faces uncertain future 

The McClatchy Company, a newspaper publisher that owns and operates 29 papers, including the San Luis Obispo Tribune, recently announced major financial challenges stemming from significant pension obligations and debt.

In a November 2019 press release, McClatchy detailed the results of its third quarter of 2019: a net loss of $304.7 million and debt of $697.1 million.

click to enlarge IN FLUX Newspaper publisher McClatchy recently outlined its major financial challenges in a report on the results of its third quarter of 2019. - FILE PHOTO BY ADOBE STOCK
  • File Photo By Adobe Stock
  • IN FLUX Newspaper publisher McClatchy recently outlined its major financial challenges in a report on the results of its third quarter of 2019.

Long declining revenue from advertising dollars have hit the company hard, along with hefty pension commitments—McClatchy owes about $124 million in pension contributions over the course of 2020 alone. That amount "greatly exceeds" McClatchy's anticipated cash balances and flow, according to the release, and although the company requested a three-year waiver of the minimum required contributions to its pension plan, the IRS declined the application.

The company did, however, see its first increase in earnings before interest, tax depreciation, and amortization in eight years, according to the release, and total paid subscriptions grew by 23.2 percent from the third quarter of 2018.

"We remain strongly committed to independent local journalism in the public interest," McClatchy President and CEO Craig Forman said in the release. "And that commitment goes beyond markets where we own a masthead."

It's unclear how, if at all, these issues will impact the The Tribune.

Jeanne Segal, director of public relations and communications at McClatchy, sent New Times information about the company's financial struggles, but did not answer questions as to whether The Tribune or its services would be affected.

On Dec. 4, former Tribune local news editor Dan Itel announced in a Twitter thread that he would no longer be working at The Tribune, writing that the "slow death of the news business, although not so slow these days, came for me last month."

Itel said that while he believes in the importance of local journalism and that there are ways to improve the news industry's financial health, he needs to move on to another path.

"And really," he wrote, "the writing is on the wall for all of us as long as corporate owners keep dismantling the core product all while crying about how readers need to invest, i.e. '#readlocal.'"

Itel then launched his own local media company, Cliff Jump Media, which provides public relations, marketing, and copy writing services.

On Dec. 5, former Tribune reporter Gabby Ferreira also announced on Twitter plans to leave the paper. Δ

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