Ben Eason, Creative Loafing’s CEO, gets some prime real estate in Editor & Publisher‘s Special Report on newspaper bankruptcy.
The most interesting part of the article is Eason’s revelation that he expects CL to emerge from bankruptcy over the summer, at which time “everyone will know the company’s real worth”:
“As time goes on, people are more realistic in what the company can produce going forward. We have an opportunity. It’s an opportunity to suggest to the creditors, to the judge, to everybody involved what we believe the company will look like going forward and then we have the opportunity to suggest what the capital structure is going to be. We are forced to value the company, not as we would like it to be, or what it was, but what it is today.”
Other than that bit of info, there’s not much to the Eason-related parts of the story. Its authors don’t press him on what he believes CL’s “real worth” is, nor does it ask him to explain for the reader his “digital transformation strategy.” This doesn’t reflect poorly on Eason — he’s answering questions and hitting talking points that he understands – but the casual way the writers unquestioningly accept the notion that the purchase of Washington City Paper and Chicago Reader was undermined by the real estate collapse of 2007 is disappointing.
As a piece of journalism, the article also falls flat because it never asks Eason to elaborate upon any of his statements. He talks, they record:
Eason explains that Chapter 11 allows his company to take advantage of dramatically reduced costs tied to legacy contracts and “outdated” processes. As such, he can have his employees spend 90% of their energy presenting content online and selling bundled offerings to advertisers, and the other 10% on the print product. “Everyone in the business knows print pays the bills, but most folks don’t understand that digital contributes to the profits,” he says.
There’s a lot here that begs for elaboration. It would have been useful to inquire about those legacy contracts and “outdated” processes, and get more in depth about the revenue stream in a digital world where ads garner only about 10 percent of their print counterparts. Journalism as stenography is a common trait, but I expected more of an article that purports to be about how newspapers are navigating the rough waters of bankruptcy.