Tuesday, December 6, 2011

St. Louis Post-Dispatch CEO: "Great News...We're Bankrupt!"

image: the St. Louis Post-Dispatch celebrates mindless consumerism even as it teeters on the brink of bankruptcy.

You can't explain this:
It's been speculated for months. And today it finally happened. Lee Enterprises, the Iowa-based publisher that took on a massive amount of debt in 2005 to purchase the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, has filed for bankruptcy.

Below is a letter that Lee CEO Mary Junck emailed out to employees later this afternoon, informing them that bankruptcy is a "good news" -- you know, like winning Pulitzer or something.
Why have America's newspaper's fallen on such hard times? Some blame the Internet. As for me, I lay at least part of the blame on the fact that many of them are run by idiots who would write something this fucking stupid in a letter to their employees and shareholders:
Dear Lee Stockholders and Employees:

There is welcome news for all of us who have a stake in Lee. The terms are in place for the completion of a comprehensive refinancing of Lee's debt.

We have achieved agreements with an overwhelming majority of our creditors to extend our existing loan agreements on reasonable terms that preserve stockholders' ownership interests in the company with only 13% dilution.

As we previously noted as a possibility, implementation will require a favorable, voluntary, prepackaged Chapter 11 process to bind the remaining minority of non-consenting lenders to the terms of the agreements. While such a filing falls under bankruptcy laws, in our case it differs significantly from most such filings because it preserves interests of stockholders and all other parties. The process will simply provide a favorable legal framework for implementing the agreements.

The court process is expected to take 60 days or less. In the meantime and throughout the process, we expect there will be no change in our business. There will be no impact on employees, customers, vendors, contractors, contracts, company operations or corporate governance. We expect Lee stock will continue to be traded on the New York Stock Exchange. I am enclosing our news release with additional details.

Although the refinancing will require Lee to pay higher interest rates, it and our strong cash flow will keep Lee on solid financial footing as we continue reshaping our company for long-term growth by expanding our digital platforms, building audiences, driving sales and improving our balance sheet.

As I hope you noticed in our most recent earnings release, Lee has continued to outperform the industry in multiple measures, most notably in digital advertising growth and audience growth. As I also hope you noted in our recent President's Awards announcements, our publishers, editors, management teams and employees throughout our company have demonstrated outstanding journalism, innovation and spirit. All of this underscores our excitement and confidence as we enter 2012.

With deep appreciation for your continuing support,

Mary Junck

Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer
Imagine working for a company and receiving a letter like that. Sure would do wonders for your morale, don'tcha think? Just how delusional do you have to be to say that you have "excitement and confidence" as you file for bankruptcy.

Taking a look above at that disgraceful cover story celebrating a past Black Friday, I think I have a pretty good idea why fewer and fewer people are willing to actually pay hard earned money for the St. Louis Post Dispatch. It must be an example of the "outstanding journalism" being practiced at the paper these days. Perhaps some real news for a change, particularly above the fold on the front cover, might make some people willing to open their wallet to pay for an old-fashioned, dead tree media source. After all, there are plenty of pandering fluff pieces available for free on teevee and the Internet to appeal to the lowest common denominator.

Corporate America has become a vast cesspool for the greedy, the conscienceless and the functionally incompetent. It's just rare that you see a corporate executive with such a perfectly appropriate last name.

Bonus: this may be completely inappropriate, but I hereby dedicate this song to Lee Enterprises CEO Mary Junck


  1. In related news Permaculture Magazine did not go bankrupt.

  2. Geez, if things are so rosy, why are they filing for bankruptcy?

    babystrangeloop, thanks for the chuckle of irony. (That really never was a danger, was it?)

  3. Irony? The irony is BSL/Hick's misinformed inflated ego. Newspapers are dying because newsprint is expensive (trees must be harvested with energy. you know) and people like the convenience and moving pictures they watch on TV and the INTERNET.

    Not because newspapers publishers are clueless.

  4. Dear Peter,
    That gloriously bad newspaper cover disproves your theory somewhat.
    The well-fed grandmom joyously stuffing Chinese crap in her shopping cart? Presumably she could have done her (over)consuming via the INTERNET. Instead, she burned $3.70 a gallon gas to drive her SUV-minivan to a souless surburban shopping destination (Target), probably waited in line, shoved, jostled, had her chubby feet trod upon. All to buy plastic stuff made on the other side of the planet and shipped to St. Louis. Lots of energy usage going on there. She's seeking a little entertainment and fun, even if all that stuff is likely paid for with money she doesnt have.

    Take it from a former newspaper reporter. People still read newspapers and many of us like the feel of newsprint in our hands. (I know, you prefer moving pictures, Reading is hard). But the soul-free corporations running newspapers (and most media) are giving news consumers the equivalent of Chinese-made crap without the excitement.
    Want people to read your newspaper? Give them something that they can't get anywhere else. Great opinion, exclusive news and news analysis.
    Take another look at that front page.
    Sports stories - one of the top Internet news categories, faux news in the over-excited grandma shopping, the first of many stories on "great gift ideas" and a sad story about a 5-year-old shooting herself.
    Newspapers - and cable channels such as CNN - are failing to deliver eyeballs because people recognize that they are receiving an inferior product. They either tune out and switch to Dancing with the Stars (Peter?) or seek better news options such as Bill's blog.
    In closing Peter, you should stop reading blogs like the Downward Spiral immediately and get back to those moving pictures before your joyful ignorance is shattered.
    And apologies for the long post. I know reading isn't your thing.

  5. @Peter - note that I never said higher costs and lowered classified advertising revenue due to the Internet were not a factor. But piss poor management certainly didn't help.

  6. @PHack - yep...some people cannot handle the truth.

  7. Bankruptcy Laws Cover the Entire United States, but EVERY STATE IS DIFFERENT.
    Know what will happen to you and your property if you file for bankruptcy in California before you file!
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