Thursday, September 03, 2009

3 SEP 09: L-E-Ominous

Well, what do you know -- maybe I wasn't seeing things when I looked at this week's issues of the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer after all. The newspaper is taking the next tough steps in a financial diet. And since its version of Slimfast wasn't fast enough, now it's gone to the 40-hour approach....

The Ledger-Enquirer's web site announced Wednesday almost half the newspaper's staff will take mandatory furloughs. They begin this weekend, and must be taken by 12 December. That's too bad - because furloughed Muscogee County teachers might have come in to write great stories during winter break.

The furloughs at the Ledger-Enquirer will last for one week without pay. That's worse than the three-day layoffs planned in Muscogee County Schools. But unlike the school district, the newspaper did NOT announce plans to take any days off. Strange - that's what almost all other media outlets in Columbus are doing.

It's interesting to read which Ledger-Enquirer staff members are exempt from the furloughs. Employees who prepare The Bayonet get to keep working. Well, unless they plan to change the name of a furlough to the more military "stand-down" or cease-fire.

The advertising department of the Ledger-Enquirer also will escape mandatory furloughs. In fact, any salesperson who exceeds the September monthly goal might receive an awarded from the National Newspaper Publishers Association.

You can find all sorts of reasons to explain the Ledger-Enquirer's plight. The economy is struggling. Newspaper sales are down from coast to coast, as people get their news online. And growing numbers of people apparently are using plastic grocery bags to line the bottoms of bird cages....

Recent staff cuts at the Ledger-Enquirer clearly are hurting the newspaper's coverage of stories. Take Wednesday, when it reported Bert Coker opposes the school sales tax question -- something he told this blog last week [26 Aug]. The small news team may be so busy that there's no time for web-surfing.

(That "breaking news" item also disclosed local government critic Paul Olson opposes the school SPLOST. Olson told us that last week as well, as he happened to drive into Bert Coker's driveway while we were on the phone with Coker. But Olson called his comments to us "off the record" - so you see, he's at least trying to help the newspaper.)

Give the Ledger-Enquirer credit for one thing - it was honest with its readers, by announcing the staff furloughs on its web site. The WRBL news team has taken plenty of furlough days in the last year, but I haven't heard it mentioned on the air. As Wayne Bennett told me before he retired in May, news shops seem to report on every economic cutback except their own.

In fact, I can now reveal the WXTX "Fox 54 Morning News" was canceled last December partly due to corporate-ordered staff cuts. Five employees lost their jobs -- but a couple were rehired in recent months. And Friday entertainment reporter Wes Carroll actually found steady work, replacing another laid-off man at WDAK radio.

There are other cuts the Ledger-Enquirer could take, which still have not happened. We speculated here in January the newspaper might stop Monday editions, yet they're still coming out. The paper could suspend home delivery, and mail each edition as Americus does. And the paper could be reduced to tabloid-size - to match what critics say it's become, with crime news on page one.

Thankfully, local media have NOT taken even more drastic steps to cut staff. Have you seen the new commercial for Office Furniture Express on Veterans Parkway -- which claims a dog named "Mr. Munson" is Chairman of the Board? Paws Humane hasn't even gone that far....

E-MAIL UPDATE: We don't receive compliments about local businesses very often, but Wednesday we did....

I got my yearly regular flu shot today at Wal Greens Macon Rd..The people there were so nice and organized..Thanks Wal Greens

Keep in mind this is NOT the vaccination for H-1-N-1. This is to guard against the regular seasonal flu -- but the "swine flu" has received so much attention, drug stores might want to promote the other vaccine by calling it "Yoo-Hoo! Flu Two!"

We'll have more to say about flu fears Friday - but now let's review a wide range of Wednesday headlines:

+ The high temperature in Columbus was 79 degrees F. I'd like to think I've turned on the air conditioner for the last time this year -- but criminals might be thinking the same thing, and plotting to steal it because I don't need it anymore.

+ The Muscogee Educational Excellence Foundation announced it unanimously supports the school sales tax question. Gasp! Are you as stunned and flabbergasted by this news as I am?! Why, this could be the dramatic push to get the Columbus Chamber of Commerce off the fence and make an endorsement next week.

+ The Georgia Secretary of State certified four candidates for the November special election, to fill Vance Smith's seat in the House. All four are Republicans, and one of them is Smith's son Kip. The battle to succeed the Kennedy family as "America's Royalty" officially is underway.

+ WTVM reported a Recorder's Court hearing for an aggravated assault suspect was postponed, because several witnesses wore flip-flops in the courtroom. This is a classic case where "clothes make the man." Wear flip-flops on the witness stand, and your testimony might do the same thing.

+ Authorities arrested a Lumpkin man on charges of growing 60 marijuana plants in his attic. And you thought you smelled musty old books up there....

+ A Stone Mountain man appeared in court on charges of slapping a two-year-old girl in the face at a Wal-Mart store, to stop her from crying. If he's found guilty, he could go to jail. If he's acquitted, former Vice President Cheney could hire him as an adviser on terrorism.

+ The Chattahoochee Valley Library System announced a September discount program. Show your library card to get lower prices or free items at several restaurants - and even ten-percent off at a bridal shop. Why not follow the library's example, and check out a wedding dress for four weeks?

+ NASCAR driver Ryan Newman met with soldiers at Fort Benning. Newman drives a car sponsored by the U.S. Army - but thanks to the breakup of General Motors, a NASCAR Humvee racing circuit now seems out of the question.

+ The University of Alabama announced its 2010 football schedule. The Crimson Tide will play on the road next year at Duke - which demands a question: why? Duke has trouble selling 30,000 tickets for a rivalry game against North Carolina. Is Nick Saban hoping this game gets moved to the Georgia Dome, too?

The number of unique visitors to our blog in the first half of 2009 was up 11.1 percent! To advertise to them, offer a story tip, make a PayPal donation or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 378 (+ 11, 3.0%)

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

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