Austin American-Statesman

‘Statesman’ offers buyouts to 200 employees and shutters its Spanish language edition

GateHouse paid $47.5 million for paper in April with big noise about commitment This April Fool’s joke had a delayed punchline. And it’s a bad...

Statesman Acquires The Austin Bulldog

 Statesman Acquires The Austin Bulldog

Surprise announcement comes on fifth
anniversary of launching the Bulldog

© The Austin Bulldog
Posted Wednesday April 1, 2015 1pm

Ken MartinKen Martin, founder, editor and publisher of The Austin Bulldog launched its website April 1, 2010, saying, “We don’t take ourselves too seriously but we take our reporting very seriously.”

On the fifth anniversary of the organization that has relentlessly pursued investigative reporting in the public interest as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit focusing on holding local government accountable, comes the news that the Austin American-Statesman will expand its reach into local government coverage by pushing into the areas covered by the Bulldog.

Debbie Hiott“We have the resources to expand the Bulldog’s focus and give local government agencies the same bruising coverage afforded to unlucky state agencies that have wandered into our crosshairs,” said Statesman Editor Debbie Hiott.

The Statesman came out on top after a bidding war broke out among the New York Times, NPR, Fox News, AlJazeera America, and The Guardian. The Chinese People’s Daily also wanted to bid but was excluded by U.S. trade regulations. “We just wanted to keep local control to the extent possible,” Martin said.

The Statesman recently swept up most of the major awards in statewide journalism competition—including on March 29 being named Newspaper of the Year for the second consecutive year. Statesman reporter J. David McSwane won the large newspaper division for Star Investigative Report of the Year.

A long strange trip

Austin American-Statesman Pruning Payroll

Posted Friday, June 10, 2011 1:54pm
‘Austin American-Statesman’ Cutting Staff Again

Voluntary Job Buyouts Offered to 167 Employees

by Ken Martin
© The Austin Bulldog

The ever shrinking monopoly daily newspaper that serves Austin and Central Texas is once again reducing its workforce. While the final results won’t be final for a week, some 40 or more employees in the newsroom were among those who got early buyout offers and could be leaving.

This cutback comes more than two years after the Austin American-Statesman offered a voluntary retirement program to 130 employees in January 2009. At that time the Statesman employed 906 full-time and part-time workers. A dozen people in the editorial department took that offer—including Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist Ben Sargent and journalists with up to 44 years of experience. That loss was sorely lamented by Editor Fred Zipp in a March 15, 2009 column, which indicated 71 people retired from the company.

This latest reduction in force would leave the paper with about 700 employees, a drawdown of about 22 percent since 2009, and a reduction of about five percent from the current workforce of 740.

Fred ZippZipp told The Austin Bulldog that employees who got the offers had until 5pm today to apply and the company has a week to review the applications. The company has reserved the right to limit departures in areas thought to be critical, he said.

“It's not the huge talent exodus that I had feared,” Zipp said. “I hate to lose anybody and we are losing some good people here,” he added. “It’s regrettable but necessary as we find the right size while the business stabilizes.”

The latest announcement was buried in the bottom left corner of the June 2, 2011 business page.

Jane WilliamsJane Williams—who took the job as Statesman publisher in January—said in that article the voluntary separation program offers up to a year’s severance pay for employees at or near retirement age. Williams said the Statesman is making the offers to reduce costs at a time revenues are drifting lower.

Employees may retire at age 55, Chief Financial Officer Eddie Burns told The Austin Bulldog. Burns predicted about 20 percent would take the offer, and said the results “are pretty close to that number, based on the feedback I'm getting.”

Burns said about 25 percent of the early buyout offers went to employees in the newsroom, which makes up about the same percentage of the newspaper’s workforce.

The early buyout offer is apparently being applied throughout the Cox-owned local newspapers, including the 10 community newspapers. Editor Ed Allen of the Westlake Picayune said he received the offer, too, but does not intend to take it.

Newspaper industry in distress

‘Austin American-Statesman’ Cutting Staff Again

Voluntary Job Buyouts Offered to 167 Employees The ever shrinking monopoly daily newspaper that serves Austin and Central Texas is once again reducing its workforce....

Community Newspapers in Fierce Competition

Independents Survive Against Cox-Owned Papers, Upstart 'Community Impact' Carving a New Niche At first glance, Austin seems the typical modern American two-newspaper town: a mid-sized...

The growing monopoly

Cox Gobbles Up Publications

Rob Patterson’s story published August 5 provides an excellent overview of the community news publications operating in Travis, Williamson and Bastrop counties. Patterson does a thorough job of getting at not only the financial competition but the quality of journalism being practiced.

The bottom line is all the newspapers covered seem to be doing the best they can with the resources they’ve got. Of course, the resources are generally never enough. Most, if not all, of the publications Patterson covered are operated with a bare-bones staff.

But, as Will Hampton, communications director for the City of Round Rock, and a former editor of the Round Rock Leader says, “The quality of the coverage is more dependent on the reporter than who they work for....” Whenever a good reporter comes along at any publication—someone with fire in the belly and the moxie to make sense of what they’re covering—the readers will be well served.

Community Newspapers Alive and Well

Posted Wednesday August 4, 2010 10:51pm
Community Newspapers Locked in Fierce
Competition for Readers and Advertisers

Independents Survive Against Cox-Owned Papers,
Upstart 'Community Impact' Carving a New Niche
Investigative Report by Rob Patterson
© The Austin Bulldog 2010

At first glance, Austin seems the typical modern American two-newspaper town: a mid-sized city with a daily newspaper, the Austin American-Statesman, and an alternative newsweekly, The Austin Chronicle. Focus more closely and a different newspaper landscape emerges.

The greater Austin area also boasts 15 community papers published from one to three times a week, and a five-year-old rapidly expanding chain of monthly papers, Community Impact Newspaper, that target seven local areas. Also in the mix are two weeklies for the African-American community, three Spanish-language weeklies, a South Asian community monthly, and a center city weekly, The Austin Times, that seems to largely fly under the radar.

Community Newspapers MapIn dire times of flagging circulation and sagging advertising dollars for print dailies, community newspapers remain one bright spot for print journalism. With 22 general audience community non-daily newspapers, and one small daily in Taylor, the Greater Austin area appears, by the numbers at least, to be rather well served by such publications.

Nine of those papers are owned by the same Cox Media Group as the American-Statesman, a subsidiary of the Atlanta-based Cox Enterprises Inc. Operating these 10 Austin-area newspapers under the same corporate roof raises obvious questions the editorial independence and local commitment of the nine community papers. These concerns first surfaced in 2000 when Cox purchased six of them—the Bastrop Advertiser, Lake Travis View, North Lake Travis Log, Pflugerville Pflag, Smithville Times, and Westlake Picayune—from Westward Communications. Concerns were elevated when Cox’s Austin Community Newspapers Group later bought the Round Rock Leader and started the Leander Ledger and Cedar Park Citizen.

Any fears that the Cox community papers might eschew or significantly compromise their local news mission under the same corporate umbrella as the Statesman have proven largely unfounded, though some observers do say the news coverage provided may not be all it could be.

The acquisitions and launching of papers by Cox has not created a juggernaut to destroy the area’s community media. Independently owned papers include the Oak Hill Gazette and West Austin News, both weeklies, and the twice-weekly Williamson County Sun. Also on the list of community papers are the twice-weekly Hill Country News, which covers Cedar Park and Leander, its Four Points News edition for the Lake Travis area, the Hutto News, and Taylor Daily Press. All four of these are part of the Taylor-based Granite Publications chain of 22 Texas community papers.

Green Power: The War to Win Hearts and Minds

 About 6,200 words Photography by Barton Wilder Custom Images From the beginning there were land, air, water, creatures. Eventually people arrived in what is now called...