Earlier this year, in a perhaps Freudian revelation of his suicidal tendencies, Seattle Times Publisher Frank Blethen told state legislators that he and other newspaper owners were "literally holding on by our fingertips." He meant figuratively holding on. But lawmakers got the message and happily handed Blethen's Fairview Fanny a tax break. Since then, the paper's union and non-union members handed back some of their perks and pay, while others were told to hand in their resignations. The result? Blethen, who says his paper weighed bankruptcy in the near past, today is optimistic, even upbeat, and thinks the financial model for newspapers is not only still viable but will be even stronger post-recession, reports Skip Berger at Crosscut.
"He said the Fifth Edition (meaning fifth generation) of the Blethen family is well-prepared and eager to keep stewarding the family-owned chain into the future," writes Berger, SW's former editor, of Blethen's chat Saturday at the Northwest Journalism Conference here. "Blethen said that they have a roughly five-year plan for his staying at the helm to steer through the troubled economic waters. He said that after the economy came back into growth mode it would take somewhat longer to get back to solid, steady growth. He said they are seeing some stabilization in ad declines."
Still, more hacking away is possible if the economy worsens. But the Times has lopped off some $90 million in costs, including the salaries of more than 500 employees in recent years. Blethen, however, didn't happen to say if that was before or after the $200 million loss his corporation likely suffered with its botched Maine newspaper deal.