Wednesday, October 23, 2013

A 'home office' is not a 'corporate office'? Uhh ....

The president of the newspaper company for whom I work said that on this week's weekly conference call with publishers.

This just underscores other things I'm learning at my first publisher's job, and why I don't feel totally sorry for newspaper owners.

That's beyond Internet-related wounds, newspaper takeover overbuying 20 years ago and other wounds, at smaller groups as well as larger ones, being largely self-inflicted.

Look, I understand why you incorporate all the newspapers separately: It's for tax reasons. It's not to give us some magical extra degree of independence. Why this is of more benefit to the local newspaper than the local Wal-Mart, I'm not sure overall, other than most smaller and mid-sized newspaper chains are not publicly traded and incorporated in a stock-share sense; they're still privately held. So, we're in the world of LPs, LLCs, and other incorporation alphabet soup.

(As a starting point, add in that I'm speaking from one of the poorest counties in Texas outside the Rio Grande Valley, and one, that unlike those counties, has a declining population, but that's another thing altogether.)

But, please, that doesn't mean that the corporate office is a "home office" and not a "corporate office."

Otherwise, why am I part of a group within our company, with a group manager?

Or, if I tried to look outside our one daily newspaper for another place to get us printed, what would happen to me?

Or, if I decided to stop participating in these Friday conference calls, what would happen to me?

Or, if I absolutely refused to complete an audit that the "home office" signed up all newspapers in the group to do, that's probably a waste of money as well as time, and with smaller newspapers in the group is likely to hurt us more than help in trying to sell national advertising?

Or, I decide not to "get" to run a column, at a few bucks a pop, by a retired community newspaper editor and publisher, without the hassle of any decision-making on my part? Even though I'm being billed for it, not the "home office," which didn't offer me input as to whether or not I wanted it.

(And, said column is, by columnist's latest missive, apparently being used by just about zero newspapers outside my newspaper company. In other words, a $200 per week backscratching of some sort for an old buddy or something.)

Answer to rhetorical questions above? I'd no longer be working here. That simple.

Or, one to which I already know the answer. Can I sign a contract for a new level of service with a phone company , without "home office" approval? Nyet.

Can I not run a "self-syndicated" columnist whom the "home office" that is not a "corporate office" signed us up to run isn't doing it totally for his health? Probably not.

Can I skip out on "home office" meetings? I kind of doubt it.

If I talk about how previous salespeople "sold" stuff without always asking individuals, businesses or organizations if they wanted the ads or not, and therefore, billed revenue isn't always accurate, will my "special pleading" be given any credence? Probably not, and I already have examples to the contrary.

No, things aren't perfect here. That said, this is my first newspaper to be publisher. I'm learning things, including how much, and how little, the title means.

As for budgeting for the future year? When my current year, a political "off year," is compared to the year before? Sure, political ads weren't a huge amount of last year's budget, but they weren't insignificant by any means.

Add in that the company president says, now, that if we didn't think we could make last year's revenue without political ad money this year, we should have said so. Then, in the same conference call, he says that we shouldn't talking about "missing political revenue" when comparing last year to this year.

Again add in that sometimes, the accounting, or specific billing issues, for my mini-group of two small newspapers, gets screwed up. 

That's just crazy, and crazy-making if you let it be. I'm trying not to.

I'm frustrated and anxious at the same time. Is it any wonder why?

Anyway, the mishmash of types of incorporation by which newspaper corporations and their corporate offices try to pretend they're not corporate offices is laughable. And, while I'm not a tax attorney, maybe tax issues are part of why "home offices" that are really corporate offices don't want to be called stuff. It may jeopardize how they're incorporated and what tax status is available to them.

And, no, it's not just my newspaper company.

Take Advance, which continues to make metropolitan daily newspapers into nondailies, at least for home delivery. (And, I don't get the three/four-day-a-week for home but still printing daily for racks. If you really want to save money, just print 3x a week period and lay off a bunch of additional press people.)

Anyway, as it shows again, with going to non-daily home delivery at the Oregonian, every time Advance "converts" a paper like this, it creates new shell companies. And, if it's not doing that for tax purposes, then I'm a Republican.

And, beyond the world of newspapers, and on to the larger world of politics.

This is further proof of how laughable the GOP wingers' claim is that we have such high corporate income tax rates. Rather, it's proof positive of how our effective rates are so low. But, this will never make the cut for legitimate tax reform issues.

I briefly wrote some earlier thoughts about this here. And, an issue about vacation time with same company here.

Finally, this is also more proof of how, not just in the newspaper business, but in general, titles are a crock of shit.

And, in the newspaper business, to be honest, between ad sales ideas that are often pitched to clients with overly generous assumptions and circulation numbers that are audited with a wink and a nod, we shouldn't be surprised if Stephen Colbert's "truthiness" is in abundance even when actual truth is not.


Nor, if that's the ultimate goal of this company starting to move to centralized pagination, am I interested in becoming more of a salesperson.

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