The 10 percent solution: The economic downturn has reached all the way to the executive suites at Michigan-based Saga Communications. Company big shots have had their bonuses reduced by 10 percent.
The bonus reductions came after Saga made deep cuts at the company’s lower levels. According to a Portland Press Herald story published on Feb. 27 (and no longer online), a “handful” of staffers at Saga’s eight stations in South Portland (the company owns more than 90 stations nationwide) were laid off in February and, according to an industry analyst, those who kept their jobs were forced to take 5 percent pay cuts.
But that’s nothing compared to the pain being felt by Saga president Edward Christian. Christian will see his annual bonus shrink from $382,522 in 2008 to a mere $344,000 in 2009.
Christian wanted to defer his bonus until the end of this year, as other Saga execs have agreed to do, but found out that the delay would have subjected him to “a significant tax penalty,” according to the annual report the company filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Other Saga officials and their bonuses for 2009 (all figures represent a 10 percent reduction from 2008):
Samuel Bush, senior VP, CFO and treasurer: $33,750
Steven Goldstein, executive VP and program director: $63,000
Warren Lada, senior VP for operations: $33,750
Marcia Lobaito, senior VP, secretary and director of business affairs: $20,250.
Full disclosure: I once worked at WGAN, a Saga-owned station. I was fired in 1993 for being insufficiently compliant with company programming policies.
Funding problem: WGME-TV in Portland will find out later this week if it will be allowed to keep the Edward R. Murrow Award it won from the Radio-Television News Directors Association for a series of stories it did on a health care program in China.
At issue is whether the station disclosed that its coverage had been funded in part by the Maine Foundation for Cardiac Surgery, the charity it highlighted in the stories, and by the Chinese hospital where the foundation performed surgeries and ran educational programs. The ethical conflict over the foundation’s funding had been disclosed in the versions of the stories that aired on Channel 13 last November, and there’s also a disclaimer about it on the stories archived on the stations Web site.
I could find no similar disclosure about the hospital’s involvement.
RTNDA officials said they were investigating to see if information about the funding had been included with the contest entry. The group was apparently tipped off about the issue after it had already handed out the award. Accepting funding from news sources is a violation of the organization’s code of ethics.
For some background on the story and the ethical issues it raises, check out the posting I filed in October.
The Independent, a free paper published twice a month, has been purchased by QOL Publications of Manchester. QOL also owns the HippoPress, an alternative weekly, and the Manchester Express weeklies. The Independent is its first paper in Maine.
The paper’s current owners, Steve and Tori Rasche will continue to work at the paper.
Disclosure: My political column runs in the York Independent.
Work at last: Jessica Alaimo, who did some first-rate reporting for the PolitickerME Web site before its parent company shut it down earlier this year, has a new job. Alaimo sent an e-mail telling me she’s the new editor of the South Gibson Star Times, a weekly paper in Fort Branch Ind.
If you’re in the neighborhood (it’s near Evansville, which appears to be about half-way between Louisville and Paducah), stop in and say hello.
Overeducated: From the April 13 Lewiston Sun Journal:
“OXFORD – SAD 17 officials are backing away from a state plan that would outfit every high school student with a laptop in favor of a new. less expensive technology initiative.
“The school board voted unanimously last week to approve Superintendent Mark Eastman’s plan to buy a new Acer Aspire One Netbook for every student in grades 9 through 121 for about $300 each.”
But all you students in grades 122 and up are on your own.
Al Diamon can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.