Newspapers Are So Poor, They're Leasing Out Laid Off Reporters' Desks

The Atlantic

Things aren't as bad as they used to be in the newspapers business, but they're not good either. Perpetually faced with declining ad revenue, several papers have become landlords recently to make ends meet. On Sunday night, The New York Times reported on the new trend of newspapers running tiny real estate business by leasing out abandoned areas of their offices. Those areas are, of course, abandoned because the papers have been slashing staff for the past few years and are realizing that those jobs just aren't going to come back. What's sort of funny about the otherwise sort of sad story is that, aside from the extra money, newspapers really like the fact that their offices feel busy again. "It makes us look like a tech company," said Shirley Leung, business editor at The Boston Globe. "That space represents the modern Globe."

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Well yes, it appears that it does. The Times, which owns and has tried to sell The Globe, goes on to explain how The Globe headquarters have been made new again by publisher Christopher M. Mayer's decision to convert about 100 empty desks into an all-purpose area where local startups have set up shot and bands regularly perform. "You don't want to underutilize an asset," Mayer said. "I have a building here that we can use for a variety of things. Bringing bands in, bringing events here, it reminds us and folks in the community what we do." Which is produce a newspaper and now, evidently, operate a hip new co-working space.

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Other papers are pulling the same trick. The Los Angeles Times, a struggling paper that recently appeared on Rupert Murdoch's radar as a possible acquisition, has been leasing out its empty office space not only to other companies but also to be used in film production. The offices that you see in Argo and Moneyball, for instances, are where LA Times reporters used to work. Their philosophy, like The Globe's, is an opportunistic one. Spokesperson Hillary Manning told The Times that converting their space into movie sets sometimes is an effort "to maximize the value of our real estate assets and diversify our revenue streams to best support The Times's core journalistic mission."

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What's next? Selling off pieces of the company to power-crazy Mexican billionaires? Oh wait…

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