WEST PALM BEACH –About effing time! The billionaire owners of The Palm Beach Post and Palm Beach Daily News this morning announced the two shrinking newspapers are for sale.
Now the question, in addition to how much, is why the Atlanta-based Cox Media Group allowed itself to transform two properties that once looked like Cinderella into two wicked step sisters before finally putting them on the market.
In my book, the local newspapers ain’t worth much these days, and like the burpy uncle at Thanksgiving, Cox overstayed its welcome by years.
Today’s announcement is Cox’s admission none of its highly-trained, high-paid presidents and vice-presidents is capable of coming up with a solution for its newspapers.
Someone in the company should pay for his failures, but we’re not holding our breath.
This much is clear: The buyers, whoever they are, will inherit a hell of a mess!
First, the newspaper’s brass watched the business lose readers then stuck bony fingers in the dike instead of applying durable patches.
From Publisher Tim Burke down to editors, the goal was to cash hefty paychecks until the bitter end instead of offering out-of-the-box solutions. Most in management watched their staff getting cut to the bone without putting much of a fight and weren’t able to get the best out of an otherwise competent staff.
Just as long as the checks kept coming.
If there is a buyer, he or she will need gallons of Lysol to clean the overstocked management ranks.
Second, the buyers will notice from day one the low morale of the 100-or-so leftovers who still do their job the way it was intended to be done 40 years ago.
In the era of instant news, the Post is routinely beaten on its own turf by South Florida’s news outfits like the Miami Herald, by national organizations like CNN and The Washington Post and foreign news agencies like The Guardian and The Daily Mail.
Worse, the lack of pride in controlling West Palm Beach and Palm Beach is so prevalent the Post has taken to aggregating stories about events happening feet from its offices on South Dixie Highway from out-of-town news organizations.
There’s a good reason for that: Replacing lifelong local veteran reporters with a slew of underpaid glorified interns from Wisconsin, or was it Montana, was a recipe for trouble.
Third, the buyers will have to get out of a bum contract with the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel to print the newspapers that land on West Palm Beach’s driveways in the morning. The contract imposed early deadlines for the Post, ensuring that the newspaper contains today’s news tomorrow.
Fourth, the Post‘s website could become a cash cow if only the producers posted stories worth reading instead of pushing through press releases from the sheriff’s office and local police departments. It also needs to hire top-notch search engine optimization gurus instead of re-trained newspaper technology people.
There’s been no mention of a sales price or whether Cox Media wants one buyer for all the papers, which also includes the Austin American-Statesman.
My hope is that Cox will agree to a reasonable offer for the Post and Shiny Sheet from a local billionaire a la Jeff Bezos who wants to influence public opinion in ways other than pouring insane money into politics.
Amazon founder Bezos has proved with his stewardship of the Washington Post and his deep pockets that there might be plenty of life left in what were once brands like the Post and Shiny Sheet.
There are plenty of guys in Palm Beach with Bezos kind of cash, and there are 1 million news-hungry people in and around West Palm Beach.
How ’bout it, gents?
I’ll caution everybody, though: Historically, Cox has been known to pretend it’s selling an asset only to shut it down outright within month.
Happened Dec. 31, 1988 when it closed The Miami News.