I don't know all the details yet, but when I learn from sources today that some of my favorite Vegas writers -- Richard Abowitz, Jeff German, Abigail Goldman, Jeff Simpson (right) and Melissa Arsenuik -- have lost their jobs, I shudder for Las Vegas journalism.
It's not even that Greenspun Media -- owners of Las Vegas Sun, In Business Las Vegas, Las Vegas Weekly, Vegas Magazine, Vegas.Com and other entities -- fired as many as 25 employees that gets me, though. That's depressing but many of the company's publications have been money-losers and civic duties for the Greenspun family for a long, long time. It's probably been many decades since the Sun has made a dime in profit. If ever.
These are good people, really, and their investment in media over the years has never paid them a profit in any way other than helping to keep the public informed and entertained. The family money comes from many other sources -- real estate, largely, as developers of Green Valley -- and many millions have disappeared into these publications and efforts.
So if the hemorhaging became unmanageable, it's tragic and a sign of the times. Nobody, not even a billionaire, owes anybody a job when the money is vanishing at the rate I suspect it has been for some time.
With all due respect to the Greenspuns, whom I work for as a columnist for the Las Vegas Weekly, whoever crafted this thing announcing the changes within their media conglomerate has done a tremendous disservice to the many people whose hundreds of years of collective service to the company just ended. Here's how it starts:
Local media divisions of The Greenspun Media Group today announced that they will reorganize and move into a single location, with the goal of fully integrating print and interactive operations.
These steps are intended to position the company to better meet the Las Vegas area's rapidly evolving informational and marketing needs and create a sustainable business model for the future, said Brian Greenspun, chairman of The Greenspun Corporation and editor of the Las Vegas Sun.
“Today's move reflects our commitment to traditional media and our increasing commitment to the potential of the digital age,” Greenspun said.
So far, so good, right? They're changing with the times, consolidating, improving efficiencies, blah blah blah. Neat-o! It's not until the eighth paragraph that we get to this:
“We truly regret the loss of jobs in our family and in our community,” said Greenspun. “We are grateful to these fine people for the contributions they have made over the years. But we must face up to both the challenges and the opportunities of the world we’re living in. We feel it’s time to unite our media into a more progressive and audience-driven model.”
Uh, wow. What were the first 50 years or so of GMG if not "audience-driven"?
But more significantly, you're laying off a large group -- unspecified for unspecific reasons, which is weird, too -- of people. Again, that's your prerogative and understandable if brutal in this environment and given the time of year, but at least do them the dignity of not depersonalizing. Don't bury this grave human cost so far into the press release that it's presented as an afterthought. Don't act as though this is all for the best, that the product you're producing will be better for it and not reduced and less substantial.
We expect this sort of spin from normal corporations and politicians. How refreshing would it have been to get something from a MEDIA company that looks like this:
See? Then go ahead and do the shiny-happy about how these changes will impact the product, integrate, whatever. But what they put out today was obvious face-saving fluff -- and who do they think they're kidding? You fired dozens of people. Own that.
What's even odder yet is that while the news release doesn't give specific names or numbers, neither does the Associated Press news story that is appearing on LasVegasSun.Com! They need to use wire copy about their own fiscal drama? I mean, the fact that Jeff German, a columnist at the Las Vegas Sun for many decades, is no longer in the paper is shocking. That would be news all by itself.
I write all this knowing full well I may offend the powers that allow me the joy -- and I mean that seriously -- of my Las Vegas Weekly column. I hope not. But I have been fired before and I feel a great kinship for the folks who have lost their jobs, a kinship that Hank Greenspun certainly would have understood and appreciated. And they could have been treated better publicly.