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www.mybaycity.com November 16, 2008
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When Detroit 3 Auto Giants, Booth Newspapers Stumble, Economic Peril Real

Government May Save Auto Firms, But the Press Is Rock of Community

November 16, 2008       Leave a Comment
By: Dave Rogers

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Big Three Detroit Auto Makers Reeling
 
Newspapers Cutting Back - Buying Out Employees - Downsizing

No one in the tri-county community should feel confident these days about the local economy.

Especially when General Motors, Ford and Chrysler (the Detroit 3, formerly the Big 3) are on the ropes.

But when giants of newspaper publishing like venerable Booth Newspapers announces buyouts and consolidation of staff, it is additional cause for serious worry.

Local newspapers are the heart and soul of a community and there is no pleasure taken with the fact they are apparently weakening.

We give no credence to the wild rumor that the Bay City Times is planning to sell its stately Albert Kahn designed headquarters at Fifth and Adams and move staff to the Valley Publishing press building on Mackinaw Road in Monitor Township.

If that happens, the little economic world of Bay City as we know it surely is coming to an end.

Having spent nearly 20 years in that building, plus 10 years as a youth peddling the newspaper, this reporter knows that Bay City and northeastern Michigan revolve around the dynamics the newspaper provides. We need to have the solid presence of the newspaper, the building and the editorial staff, in the heart of our community.

The Times covers Bay and 12 other counties in northeastern Michigan, as it has since 1873, and has circulation of 30,000 daily and up to 40,000 on Sundays.

These tectonic shifts, even if just rumors, provide no better confirmation of the devastating effects of globalization and rapid improvements in technology, as well as the worldwide equalizing of education, can be found.

GM and the other automakers are in crisis meetings with government to try to save 3 million jobs. Some legislators, incredibly, continue the self-destructive attitude of the Bush Administration that has so little love for the United Auto Workers that it would devastate the nation's economy.

There may be another factor: Leading Republican Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, Toyota Motors of Alabama. Need we say more? Could the culture we have created in America really be that crass?

We can only hope that cooler, and more intelligent, heads will prevail. The Republican Party, if it wants to rebound and remain a national force, really needs to reconsider its opposition to helping the nation's auto industry. And we hope that any drastic moves of newspaper headquarters are just rumors, or, that they would be reconsidered by the powers that be.

The sometime Presidential candidate General Wesley Clark, who only occasionally makes sense, points out in a deadly accurate column in the New York Times that "What Is Good For G.M. Is Good For The Army."

This is a sentiment we have expressed in the past and it is right on. Without substantial industrial capacity, this country would be crippled in any national security crisis.

While the loss of a GM plant such as PowerTrain in Bay City would savage the city budget to the tune of $1 million in property taxes a year, the loss of a newspaper would be even more destructive to the soul of the rest of the community.

Ann Arbor bloggers are bouncing off the wall with reports from the Booth Newspapers that many newsroom jobs are being shaved and/or moved to the largest paper the Grand Rapids Press or the Kalamazoo Gazette.

Buyouts of two weeks pay per year of service for those with at least five years tenure are being reported. Copy editors, graphic designers and other staff members are said to be shifted to Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo and the other papers will basically be news bureaus.

Thankfully, the Newhouse chain that owns Booth is reportedly adhering to its pledge of lifetime employment. If true, that is corporate integrity that even GM has not lived up to.

A former Ann Arbor News staffer, blogging under papertigernomore.com, comments: "This is an understandable move. Newspapers -- already hemorrhaging money and readers before the economic downturn because of the Internet -- are facing their toughest business environment since the Depression. Conditions in Michigan are even worse."

The blog freefromeditors.blogspot.com reports that Bay City, Saginaw and Flint newspapers will share management. A lineup of blogs with former staffers commenting on newspaper changes is listed on that site.

The same as we hope for GM to be brought back from the brink, we hope the chieftains of Booth from New York see fit to retain the vital presence of newspaper buildings and adequate staff in the core community. Otherwise, the economic earthquake that is hitting Michigan will surely intensify and nothing will ever be the same, Internet or not.###

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Dave Rogers

Dave Rogers is a former editorial writer for the Bay City Times and a widely read,
respected journalist/writer in and around Bay City.
(Contact Dave Via Email at carraroe@aol.com)

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