Second phase of retrenchment in print media: Is it stopping any time soon?

A little over four months into the pandemic and close to 2000 journalists have either lost jobs, sent on unpaid leave or have had a massive pay cut

e4m by Tasmayee Laha Roy
Updated: Aug 10, 2020 7:55 AM
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Deteriorating toplines, disruption in circulation and an overall rickety economic situation in the wake of the cornavirus pandemic has put the media industry in a spot. After thousands of journalists across board were sent on furlough, given pink slips or asked to take a massive pay cut, there is a second wave of retrenchment that has hit the Indian media industry, and this time it’s mostly in the print media.
After firing close to 40 employees across teams in the initial days of lockdown and wrapping up their weekend edition Business News Daily, Business Standard has gone for a second round of firings. This time is it is 25 journalists who have been given pink slips. The list of those asked to leave includes some prominent journalists.
Like most other news businesses, it is told that Business Standard management will now shift focus primarily to digital.
“The huge amount of atomization and digitization has cost employees their job across sectors. With the lockdown, most readers have increased their screen time and prefer to read their daily news on their smartphones. This has forced news businesses to up their ante in digital and shift focus from print which anyway is seen as a dying media. However, this wasn’t the time to bid farewell to print for good. What could have taken at least another 5 years to happen is happening now. The pandemic has only expedited the process,” said Rajneesh Singh, who runs his own HR firm Simply HR Solutions. Singh is also a media industry veteran and was Group Head-HR at TV18 India Limited.
However, Business Standard is not the isolated example. India Today Group's English language tabloid Mail Today also shut shop last week, costing close to 40 people their jobs.
In an internal mail to the employees, Aroon Purie, Chairman & Editor-in-Chief of the India Today Group spoke at length about changing times and importance of digital media. The mail said, “During these years, we weathered the worldwide financial crisis of 2008 and the demonetization shock to the economy in 2016. Unfortunately, the pandemic has drastically changed reader preferences. Daily and rigorous news consumption on devices during the lockdown makes it clear that the newspaper print medium will not resurrect. ​There is, therefore, little prospect of making Mail Today in print a viable publication. It is with deep regret that I announce the suspension of the print edition--the last print edition in its current form will be published on Sunday, August 9. ​​ I will miss holding a copy of Mail Today every morning as I am sure will many of our readers. That said, we will be rebooting Mail Today in a digital avatar to meet the challenges of the future.”
A little over four months into the pandemic and close to 2000 journalists have either lost jobs, sent on unpaid leave or have had a massive pay cut. Indian Express and Business Standard were the first to announce pay cuts followed by most other newspapers like Hindustan Times, The Times of India, and The Economic Times.
Is the bloodbath in media going to end any time soon? Not until next year, say experts.
“It might appear that newspaper houses are being cruel in terminating employment contracts but there isn’t any other way. This year has seen zero revenue months. Some popular newspapers that had once published newspapers of up to 100 pages backed by advertisements have had to cut the edition by more than half because there were no advertisements, and advertisements are the primary source of revenue for newspapers. Without revenues newspapers are forced to either shut down completely or downsize their teams. I’d still say this is not the end of print media in India. Advertisers will take time but they will gradually be back. Things will be better in the next fiscal and opportunities will open. Competition however will be very tough,” said news industry veteran Nishikant Thakur. Thakur was the former Chief General Manager, Printer Publisher and Resident Editor of Dainik Jagran.

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