The newspaper industry, and books coverage in Texas, took another hit Monday, January 7, as The Dallas Morning News underwent major job cuts.
The Morning News eliminated forty-three jobs, with nearly half coming in the newsroom. Its leaders say it was necessary to lay the groundwork for aggressive investment in technology to boost the Morning News’ digital products. The move comes as the paper’s owner, A.H. Belo Corporation, was expecting disappointing fourth-quarter financial results from 2018.
In a statement, A.H. Belo’s chief financial officer, Katy Murray, said, “In 2019, we are committed to aligning the company’s investments and resources with the goal of becoming the best possible subscriber-first digital organization. Today, The Dallas Morning News announced internally that it is realigning resources by eliminating forty-three existing roles within the organization and creating twenty-five roles to support this goal. In 2019 The News is also investing in technology platforms that support subscribers’ online experience and enhance customer service at every level. We believe these steps are key to making the transition to a dynamic journalistic entity that can thrive in a digital world.”
Meanwhile, Morning News publisher and president Grant Moise, in a separate statement, said, “We are focused as a company on building The Dallas Morning News so it is positioned for success. After considerable thought and analysis, our management team has determined that our business in the future is largely supported by subscription revenue and the need for more aggressive investment in our digital products. We are rebalancing our financial resources to support these new foundational elements so we are positioned for success and can deliver quality journalism for many years to come.”
The noteworthy names of the twenty let go in the newsroom included veteran books editor Mike Merschel and culture critic Chris Vognar, who had been at the paper for twenty-five years and twenty-three years, respectively. “… really, only the timing was unexpected,” Merschel said on Facebook. “The bottom fell out of the journalism business in about 2006, which means I've spent twelve years expecting to be cut in the inevitable next round. Today, I was finally right.”
Vognar said, “Any journalist who has been doing this long enough can’t be that shocked when this happens. It’s the reality of the business, unfortunately. It’s awful for those it happens to.”
According to the Morning News, through the first nine months of 2018, revenue for A.H. Belo declined nearly nineteen percent from the same period the previous year — from $184.55 million to $149.77 million.
“Really, you just had to look at the quarterly reports from last year to see that the start of this year wasn’t going to be much fun,” Vognar told Poynter.com.