Intelligent Discontent

Lee Enterprises Loses $26 Million Dollars and 7 Per Cent of Employees


I must admit that I am not a highly compensated member of a corporate board nor an expert in executive compensation, but I have to assume that Lee Enterprises CEO Mary Junck is due for another half million dollar bonus after these stellar results in the second fiscal quarter:

Operating revenue for the quarter totaled $172.3 million, a decrease of 3.6% compared with a year ago. Combined print and digital advertising revenue decreased 5.3% to $117.5 million, with retail advertising down 3.5%, classified down 7.1% and national down 9.7%. Combined print and digital classified employment revenue decreased 0.3%, while automotive decreased 3.9%, real estate decreased 12.2% and other classified decreased 11.5%. Digital advertising revenue on a stand-alone basis increased 9.9% to $15.7 million. Print revenue on a stand-alone basis decreased 7.3%. Circulation revenue increased 0.1%.

Overall, as the Washington Post reports, Lee lost 54 cents per share in the quarter for a total of 26.6 million dollars:

The company said it lost $26.6 million, or 54 cents per share, for the fiscal second quarter that ended March 25. That compares with a loss of $1.5 million, or 3 cents per share, for the same period a year ago.

Lest anyone forget, Lee’s CEO Mary Junck took a bonus of $500,000 during a quarter when the company she leads lost $26 million dollars.

Optimistic press releases about evolving “in the digital age” notwithstanding, the corporate raid on Lee’s profitable small newspapers continues, as readers and advertisers are fleeing a product that lacks the resources to produce consistent quality. Lee’s failed strategy and corporate piracy are stripping these local papers of their most valued commodity: local belief that the newspaper will offer complete and comprehensive coverage.

One has to love the dispassionate tone of corporate press releases, especially when it relates to actual human beings losing their jobs. From the press release:

Compensation decreased 5.2%, with the average number of full-time equivalent employees down 7.5%.

That’s 7 per cent fewer people collecting, editing, producing, and distributing the news that is vital to many communities only served by one newspaper.

I derive no pleasure from watching the decline of newspapers—it’s certainly a tough environment when a company with no revenue is worth more than the New York Times—but the mismanagement and theft from local newspapers by the Lee chain is especially galling. People who work for their papers and the communities those papers serve deserve better.

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Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is a sixteen year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate. In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

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