A Friday afternoon visit to H.A. Jones to finalize the purchase of a business truck purchase found Montgomery Northcutt occupying space in the showroom.
With his charming demeanor, Montgomery greeted me.
“What have you done to the newspaper?” he asked. That question was much less pointed than Montgomery’s next question regarding where all my hair went.
I initiated the consolidation of the newspaper to one section after Christmas. Publishing two sections costs more than $250 per issue beyond the cost of one. Until Thanksgiving, our business had felt the economic tsunami that is national news, but not to the extent of other media.
After Thanksgiving, it became a different story. Our customers began cutting expenses, including advertising, and we had to respond accordingly. Eliminating one section of the paper until the business climate improves seemed to be the least painful action.
Unlike many area news products, I did not ask for a cut in the news hole. A quick recap, however, indicates an unintended, slight decrease in the amount of news published. During the first four issues of January 2008, we averaged 10 pages of news per issue. For the same period in 2009, we have averaged one-half page less.
On Monday, I met with our 30-plus full-time employees to announce further belt-tightening. Each full-time employee will take one day off without pay during each of the next five months. I will take my unpaid day on Feb. 2 and the first day of each of the next four months.
This seemed again to be the less painful action in trying to align expenses to revenue. It was also the fairest approach, in my opinion, in sharing the burden of unprecedented economic times. Later that night, I learned that 75,000 American jobs were lost during the day.
Hopefully, one newspaper section and 40 hours less pay during the next five months will be the extent of the sacrifice to be made by our readers and employees.
I appreciate Montgomery for keeping me on my toes and remaining accountable to our readers. Even more, I appreciate Yogi for letting Montgomery occupy space in his showroom rather than our pressroom.