It's Buyout Time Again
Please leave: On July 22, management at the Blethen Maine Newspapers-owned Kennebec Journal in Augusta and Morning Sentinel in Waterville told employees that they could apply for voluntary separation agreements – buyouts – before layoffs are announced in mid-August. But not all employees will be eligible for the program. Anyone who’d have to be replaced doesn’t qualify. And according to one insider, the prime target of the buyout offer is middle managers and non-union workers.
Blethen announced last week that there’d be another round of layoffs at all its Maine papers (which also include the Portland Press Herald and Maine Sunday Telegram) next month, due to the company’s “fragile financial situation.”
Please be nice: Is the entire Maine newspaper industry afraid of banks? First it was the Portland Press Herald, with a ridiculous piece of positive public relations about how the state’s financial industry wasn’t facing any of the problems afflicting banks in other states. This despite several earlier Press Herald stories that showed local banks being hurt by declining prices for housing and increasing foreclosures.
Now, it’s the Bangor Daily News with an even weaker July 22 piece by reporter Walter Griffin touting the safety of Maine banks. (The story isn’t posted on the BDN Web site, so maybe somebody on that side of the operation recognized that it wasn’t really news.)
Griffin’s work reads like the misleading pronouncements of the police chief in “South Park.” “Nothing to see here, folks. Just keep moving.”
The story, citing a state official, tells us, “Maine depositors have nothing to be concerned about.” The official is quoted as saying, “All our banks are in good shape.” We know that assessment must be correct, because it’s supported by somebody from the state banking association. He said, “From everything we’ve heard from our members, their institutions are strong and well capitalized.”
All this may be true. But it’s not backed up by a smidgeon of evidence. And such evidence could be easily obtained by any experienced business reporter with access to a computer. Banks have to file all kinds of reports on their holdings with the state and feds. These documents are public records that could be checked to determine if there are problems. Banks that are traded on the stock exchange have to release even more information about their fiscal health. Again, it’s mostly readily available online. And there are plenty of banking industry experts who might be willing to lend some different tints to the uniformly rosy picture painted by local bank executives.
Too difficult? In that case, there’s the Bangor paper’s archives, where there are stories showing home sales in the state declined 20 percent in February and 28 percent in March over the same months in 2007. Apparently, those sharp drops didn’t bother local lenders. Or if they did, they wouldn’t want to mention it in the newspaper.
How about a little perspective? How about a little guts?
Please don’t rush: According to Northeast Radio Watch, Saga Communications has finally received a new license to operate WBAE in Portland (1490 AM), after a four-year delay by the Federal Communications Commission. The Web site says the usually routine renewal was held up because of complaints from two listeners. Their gripe: WBAE regularly interrupts its broadcasts of the “Music of Your Life” format to carry Portland Sea Dogs baseball games.
After all that waiting around, the FCC informed the fans of swing bands but not swinging bats that it didn’t get involved in station’s programming decisions.
Al Diamon can be e-mailed at email@example.com.