Taking a cue from the late New York mayor Ed Koch, a loyal newspaper reader might ask, “How is the San Diego Union-Tribune doing?” More to the point, how is the financial condition of the paper’s owner, Chicago-based Tribune Publishing, getting along? Wall Street says thumbs down, based on the precipitous fall of the company’s stock in recent weeks, from a high of $24 to a bone-crushing $10.77 low on August 14. It has since recovered slightly, to $11.12 as of this Monday.
Why are the shares doing so poorly? One reason may be the dumping by ex-U-T owner Douglas Manchester of some of the 700,000-plus shares of stock that covered part of the paper’s $85 million sale price. Others point to the quarter-after-quarter decline in revenue, reflecting the newspaper industry’s chronic trouble selling ads. But don’t give up yet, says Tribune chief executive officer Jack Griffin, who announced last week that the company would be buying up $30 million of its own stock, thereby presumably buoying its market price. “The stock repurchase program announced today demonstrates our confidence in our Company and underscores our commitment to delivering shareholder value,” Griffin said in an August 18 news release. There are other signs that Griffin and associates believe they’ll have to spend more money if they want to ever make any of it.
The corporation’s website features a help-wanted advertisement for a new U-T senior “environment” reporter. “Do you take on explanatory reporting and watchdog assignments with equal gusto?” the notice asks. “Are you someone who aggressively pursues enterprise stories with a national or even international imprint? Does your definition of environment reporting cover everything from California’s drought and land-use controversies to population control and marine science?”
Continues the ad, “We appreciate a person who possesses speed along with accuracy, depth along with accessibility, lively prose along with expert sourcing.” According to the post, “You’ll be rewarded with a rich palette of stories in San Diego County, a region with 3.1 million people that’s diverse in ecology, special-interest activism and environmental trends urban and rural. This is a high-profile beat that will not disappoint.”
Among other qualifications, the new writer must “show competence with telephone, voice mail, faxes, printers, etc.,” and “have knowledge of libel laws and follow them.” The paper also is looking to hire a new real estate reporter. “The beat includes a range of real estate topics, including buying a home, selling a home, mortgages and financing, and renting,” says a description of the job posted on TalkingBizNews. “There are lots of opportunities for investigations and data journalism.”
On the business side, Tribune bragged in an August 19 stock-boosting PowerPoint presentation to prospective investors that it had, “Printed first edition of San Diego Union-Tribune in Los Angeles approximately three weeks after closing,” and “exited the San Diego production facility.” In addition, the company said it had been “recognized as first publisher to introduce [a] suite of Apple Watch apps for all of its brands.”