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OPINION: Time For Readers And Advertisers to Pull The Plug on The Palm Beach Post?

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OPINION: Time For Readers And Advertisers to Pull The Plug on The Palm Beach Post?

The Palm Beach Post building in West Palm Beach

You’re getting laid off. You’re getting one week’s pay per year served. And, by the way, your health insurance runs out at midnight!

That’s the message that 20-plus employees received from their managers at The Palm Beach Post Friday.

And as the last few of you who still subscribe (about 100,000) open your newspapers this morning, keep this in mind: It didn’t have to happen!

The company that owns the Post and the Palm Beach Daily News, Cox Media Group, is not publicly traded. It doesn’t have to react to Wall Street pressures. It doesn’t have to please outside investors. And last year, revenues reached $1.8 billion.

CMG is owned by an Atlanta family with three billionaires on the Forbes 400 richest Americans could actually distance itself from every downscaling media owner in America and invest in the future.

But the desire to do the right thing, a founding principle of the company, no longer exists at CMG.

When I got to the Post in 2004, it was the best newspaper its size in this country. Since 2008, however, the paper has shed its presses (the paper’s now printed by the Sun-Sentinel), more than half its staff (it used to be 1,300) and most of its editorial quality.

Who cares? With each employee canned, a wealth of local memory vanishes. Fewer scoops make it into the pages and migrate onto fledgling local websites like Gossip Extra.

And I challenge the Post to catch ever again a crooked politician like county commissioners Tony Masilotti or Warren Newell.

Anne Cox Chambers

The latest cuts, and some more expected next year, have less to do with losses than profits. Like good little lapdogs, the Post‘s managers take their orders from the capital of this Roman empire, Atlanta. And the orders are to meet artificially-set financial goals no matter what.

Whose fault? Three groups:

— Greedy owners! Ultimately, layoffs are to ensure that a family of billionaires (upward of $26 billion combined, according to Forbes) get to hold on to its dough, all of its dough. Matriarchal owner Anne Cox Chambers, 91, is America’s third richest woman, with $12 billion. Nothing wrong with that, right? Unless, of course, alleged philanthropist and Pres. Barack Obama supporter Cox Chambers thinks there’s something wrong with someone losing her health insurance six hours after being laid off.

— Employees scared silent! While some remaining Post employees greeted layoffs with a few tears, it’s going to be business as usual in newsroom on Monday. They’ll close their eyes on these layoffs like they have on the past ones, giving management a free pass. Until the skeleton crew left standing starts taking its cues from Occupy Wall Street types, cuts will continue and the service to the community will shrink. Cox’s ultimate goal appears to be squeezing whatever it can out of the dying Post, then shut it down and take the write-offs. How about making their last few years memorable for the Atlanta trash, gang?

— Lemming-like readers and advertisers! While 100,000 readers out there still trust the Post, they’re now paying $300-a-year in a tough economy for the privilege of reading yesterday’s news, and much less of it. Advertisers, meanwhile, seem unfazed by the Post‘s loss of influence and impact. Readers and advertisers could hold the Post accountable by cancelling subscriptions and ad contracts. But this type of “nonsense” is just not being done in these parts.

Make no mistake about it: I loved the Post for the seven years I was there. I was always treated with respect and dignity, and I, too, watched layoffs silently.

But it’s when the going gets tough that you find out who your friends are.

And at this point, The Palm Beach Post and CMG are no friends of South Florida.

Your opinion?

For more:

Bloodbath at The Palm Beach Post

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