Press: Getting Bad News Firsthand

An ad slump causes newspapers to trim their editorial sails

When Thomas Geyer started running the New Haven Register in 1986, the paper's Connecticut marketplace was booming. That made it possible to increase profits while simultaneously transforming a lackluster broadsheet into an editorially aggressive and graphically vibrant winner of awards, including the New England Newspaper Association's 1988 prize for the best Sunday paper of its size. But this year, as employment and house sales slowed, classified notices fell off 25%. The biggest display advertiser, the Macy's retail chain, cut its pages 15%. Overall, Register ad linage plummeted 20%.

In an effort to sustain profit margins, Geyer repeatedly imposed layoffs and other...

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