Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Journal Layoffs Raise Questions Of City's Newspapering Future, And: Staffing Up; APD Officer Shortage Analyzed 

Publisher Lang
Newspapering remains an uncertain and treacherous enterprise in this digital age with a broken business model and an opaque future. The ABQ Journal is no exception. The news:

The Journal has laid off more than half of its customer service team. According to Joseph Leong, vice president and chief revenue officer for Albuquerque Publishing Company, which owns the Journal, the move was in the works for the last couple of months and takes the 15-person staff down to seven.

That layoff announcement comes on the heels of the Journal's decisions to abandon its vending machines and to purchase a used printing press for $3 million instead of a new one for $28 million.

All the activity has the Alligators speculating over the future of the paper which like others has seen its print circulation continue to plunge year after year. Is the Journal getting itself in tight fiscal shape to weather the stormy years ahead and eke out a decent profit? Or is the belt tightening in preparation to sell off the family owned newspaper? And if it is, are there any buyers out there?

The new publisher of the paper is William Lang, brother of Tommy Lang who retired from the position earlier this year. Our Alligators inform that William Lang is not enamored with the newspaper business but is a proficient businessman.

The Journal seems to be making its going from its extensive real estate holdings rather than the expensive-to-produce newspaper. It is a privately held company, in the Lang family since 1926, so it is hard to determine if the real estate is subsidizing the newspaper operation.

We do know that Scripps-Howard still gets 40 percent of the Journal's profits, if there are any. That agreement dates back to when Scripps owned the now defunct ABQ Tribune. Would that arrangement prevent a Journal sale? Probably not, if the 40 percent interest isn't doing much for them.

How about Hearst, the owners of KOAT-TV which partners with the Journal newsroom, buying the paper? They could combine the newsrooms  and save a lot of money. But what about FCC rules that restrict ownership of a TV station and a city's newspaper by the same owner? From what we have researched a waiver might be able to be granted to allow such a sale.

Whether it's the bookkeepers looking after the bottom line or the new publisher looking to a company future without a newspaper, the Journal, like most papers, will be sailing in rough waters until someone figures out how they can again become money makers.


Frequent blog contributor and retired APD Seargent Dan Klein comes with an insightful analysis of the major shortage of APD officers.

Joe, law enforcement experts are pegging 1,100 as the number of police officers needed for a city the size of ABQ. We have barely over 800 and the reasons city officials are giving for the chronic understaffing don't hold up under scrutiny. When Mayor Berry took over in 2010 we had 1,055 officers. This shortage is a problem in ABQ but not elsewhere in the state as city leadership claims. 

APD is down 263 officers from the original budgeted strength of 1,100. The NM State Police is currently 100 percent staffed with 678 officers. The Bernalillo County Sheriff's Deponent is also 100 percent staffed with 332 officers, 

Mayor Berry and APD Chief Eden will tell you that police staffing is a problem statewide. That police officers have been retiring because of changes to the state pension plan--PERA. Well NMSP and BCSO belong to the same plan APD belongs to. So why are they fully staffed and APD is losing officers to retirements? It is because of APD mismanagement and it has nothing to do with PERA. If PERA were the problem NMSP and BCSO would also be having trouble.

Thanks, Dan. Mayor Berry will again ask the Legislature to permit "double-dipping" which would allow retired officers getting full pensions to rejoin APD and keep that pension as well as their salary. Klein's analysis makes passage of double-dipping even more problematic.

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