Opinion: Media Mangle

Government Needs to Learn From Newspapers

It's time for government to cut and trim people to meet their budgets

Daily newspapers may be bastions of liberal thinking, but they’re also businesses. When revenue falls, they have to cut back. When revenue really goes into the dumper, they have to make hard choices that aren’t pleasant. I know. I’ve been in the chair having to make those decisions when the bean counters say cut bodies.

McClatchy, the parent company of The News & Observer, like every other newspaper, has had a tough few years in that regard, and they likely have many more tough ones to come. The Charlotte Observer, also a McClatchy paper, cut 20 jobs this week and its sister paper The Sacramento Bee cut 32. They are making the hard choices:

The Bee has offered buyouts to selected employees in hopes of making most of the cutbacks voluntary. But if enough workers don’t take buyouts, layoffs will be imposed. Besides the 32 jobs being eliminated, two full-time jobs are being converted to part time.

The Charlotte (N.C.) Observer – which, like The Bee, is owned by The McClatchy Co. of Sacramento – also announced Monday that it will lay off 20 workers and make remaining workers take unpaid one-week furloughs.

Individual McClatchy papers don’t report their financial results. McClatchy disclosed in December that ad revenue at its California papers dropped 7.8 percent in October and November. The companywide average was a decline of 5.8 percent.

Notice that, in the private sector, when revenues decline, cuts are made, people lose jobs. That’s how businesses say in business, trying to weather the storm of a bad economy, or a declining industry, until there’s a way to to get back on a firm footing.

Compare that to what government does. The first thing you hear is that incredibly necessary services can’t be cut, that incredibly necessary people can’t lose their jobs, and that incredibly necessary spending levels must be maintained. While businesses can’t simply decree that revenues increase, government can. All it has to do is raise taxes, which is what it has done for decades.

That’s why we’re in the fix we’re in. The Tea Party movement is about the nation finally seeing that this can’t go on. Government can’t continue to be exempt from the realities of a bad economy while moms and pops sit around their kitchen tables trying to figure out what else to cut. And cut they do.

It’s time for government, for government leaders, to begin making the same choices that businesses like McClatchy and the American family have had to make. Cut. It’s not pleasant, but it must be done. Some people will lose jobs. Well, that’s unfortunate. No elected official is coming to bat for journalists like they do public workers. No office holder is declaring journalists untouchable by economic realities, as they do with government workers.

That goes for the millions of others who have lost jobs in this economic downturn. Only government rolls on as if nothing has happened, making much more on average than private-sector workers. It’s time for that to change. It’s time to spread the misery around, to paraphrase our president.

Jon Ham is vice president of the John Locke Foundation and publisher of its newspaper, Carolina Journal.