Dallas Morning Blues

The good Friends of Unfair Park over at FrontBurner have been on the news from the News this afternoon that buyouts-layoffs are forthcoming; sorry, but we've been seeing Superman Returns, because some of us are film critics in our spare time. But we too have learned that this afternoon, Belo bosses began telling employees at the paper that 40 staffers in the newsroom will need to take buyout offers. If they can't crack that number, Belo bosses will start laying off employees as they did in October 2004, when 250 people were fired throughout Belo Corp., with about 150 of those coming from the News.

The news of the impending buyouts-layoffs comes just three days after Belo announced its newspaper group's total revenue decreased 4.2 percent for the month of May versus the prior year, with a 6.6 percent decrease in advertising revenue. Specifically at The Dallas Morning News, total revenue decreased 3.2 percent in May versus last year, "including an estimated $2.5 million in incremental circulation revenue," revealing the paper's still smarting from the circulation scandal that was among the reasons (not really) given for the first batch of layoffs two years ago. Belo execs also insisted on June 20 that things were looking up, while also hinting at changes that were clearly around the corner. Said Belo chairman, president and CEO Robert Decherd:

"We are in the midst of transforming Belo's businesses to compete effectively in what is becoming an increasingly Internet-centric marketplace. We are launching new products, reengineering our cost structure and reallocating human, financial and capital resources to match the Company's forward strategy, while constantly looking to take costs out of our business overall. We are determined to remain the content provider of choice in our local markets and are confident that we have the assets and management talent to succeed."

Only now, Belo will have fewer assets with which to accomplish that goal, which seems counterintuitive, to say the very least. Then again, so did the CueCat.

Word is the firing of WFAA-Channel 8 veteran and award-winning reporter Don Wall a week ago Thursday had nothing to do with Belo's economic straits. The new bosses at Channel 8, who have been bringing in their own folks and ushering out the respected vets with gravitas (including Bill Brown more than a year ago), simply decided not to renew his contract, which is perhaps one more reason people are turning over to KTVT-Channel 11 and KXAS-Channel 5 for their nightly news. All of this conjures but one simple phrase at the moment: What a shame. --Robert Wilonsky

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