McClatchy to cut 1,600 jobs – 15 percent of staff

The other shoe dropped at the Sacramento Bee’s owner McClatchy on Monday: It will cut 1,600 jobs, or 15 percent of its workforce.

The Bee, McClatchy’s flagship paper, said it is cutting 138 jobs, or 11 percent of its workforce. Other newspapers in the chain will make their own decisions.

The cuts will come at the end of the first quarter. The severance payments will total $30 million.

“The effects of the current national economic downturn make it essential that we move even faster to realign our workforce and make our operations more efficient,” said chief executive Gary Pruitt.

Pruitt will take a 15 percent pay cut and other executives will take a 10 percent cut.

A growing chorus of Wall Street analysts have called for Pruitt’s ouster, citing McClatchy’s ill-timed buyout of Knight Ridder’s newspaper chain. The debt from the deal has added pressure to McClatchy, whose stock is trading at less than $1 per share.

We get a new Web site to find local bargains

A new Web site called goldcountryonthecheap.com is launching this week, highlighting the best bargains for businesses along the Highway 49 corridor, stretching from Grass Valley to Auburn.

Site's new logo
Site's new logo

The bargain-hunting site is the latest example of how the Internet, with no barriers to entry, is reshaping the local media landscape —  long dominated by community newspaper chains and independent radio stations.

“Everyone is looking for deals right now,” said the site’s publisher, Kris Bordessa of Placerville. “And they’re out there. I’m just trying to make it easy for people to find them.”

A site called nevadacountymall.com already is up and running, offering online coupons from local businesses. The startup also owns the domain name placercountymall.com to expand the idea.

Besides the new Web coupon sites, a social networking and blog site called nevadacountyunites.com has launched. It is running Google ads.

Goldcountryonthecheap.com caught my attention for three reasons:

•It focuses on the fast-growing Highway 49 corridor, providing new advertising opportunities across two counties, as I’ve blogged about before.

•It also capitalizes on the boom in online coupon clipping, brought on by the recession, as I’ve discussed.

•Last, the new Web site is part of a national, independently owned network, http://www.citiesonthecheap.com, so it can post information from the other sites — benefitting from economies of scale.

Our area’s media landscape is changing rapidly, thanks to the Web, providing new choices for readers and advertisers alike.

Riding the Rails — now and during the Depression

For $5 (and much less with ongoing discounts), the Sunday New York Times is still a bargain. So much information. This morning’s Travel section has a well-written and researched article titled “Riding the Rails.”

Hobos
Hobos

It includes a discussion of one of our family’s favorite trips: the California Zephyr, which you can hop onto the train in Colfax.

“A week-long cross-country trip (is) a way to rediscover America and reconnect with fellow countrymen,” as the article states. Or as one train attendant summed it up: “Life gets discombobulating. This helps.”

As it turns out, riding the rails was popular during the Great Depression — for more practical reasons.

“Many people forced off the farm heard about work hundreds of miles away . . . or even half a continent away,” according to “Farming in the ’30s.” “Often the only way they could get there was by hopping on freight trains, illegally.

“More than two million men and perhaps 8,000 women became hobos.”

(photo from hobofest.southchicago.info)

Mine: “We treat people of GV with kid gloves.”

At least that’s the word from Jeff Stuart, Emgold’s manager of business development, in a video interview released this week on the Smartstock Online TV Show.

There's gold in them hills!
There's gold in them hills

Stuart talks about the “net migration” that will come to Grass Valley when the mine opens. Though summing up Emgold’s perspective, the interviewer does not ask the executive to address the objections from many others — truck traffic, pollution or concern from some tech companies about vibration.

I’m on the fence about the mine reopening, but Emgold needs to adopt a much more professional P.R. approach. This “softball” interview, shown on Emgold’s corporate Web site for its investors (sadly), did not address the real issues. I’m not alone in this belief, either. The approach is podunk.

You can click here to read the press release and the video interview is here

Judging by its Web site, Smartstox.com seems like an outfit that touts mining stocks — gold, tungsten, silver and copper — that trade for less than a dime per share. Among them, Emgold, Bravo Venture Group, and my favorite, *Golden Chalice* Resources. (It trades for 15 cents per share, higher than the others).

Don’t laugh, though: Nowadays newspaper companies, such as McClatchy, trade for less than $1 a share too! (MNI is trading at 68 cents).

North Auburn draws another booming franchise

images10
A Dutch Bros. in Oregon

Local coffee shop owners beware: A booming Oregon drive-through coffee franchise, Dutch Bros., is coming up the hill.

Not a peep in the Auburn Journal, but the Dutch Bros. franchise will go up where the old Taco Tree used to be on Highway 49 — the same stretch of North Auburn where a Home Depot just opened down the road and a Trader Joe’s is planned. 

The venture also puts more pressure on our Grass Valley/Nevada City business “cul de sac,” as more people from Lake of the Pines and nearby turn left, not right, to visit these up-and-coming businesses. For that matter, the Starbucks in LOP could feel some heat.

Dutch Bros. is to Portland and the rest of Oregon what Starbucks was to Seattle and the neighboring state Washington when it began.

Dutch Bros. — complete with a windmill and blue-and-orange logo — has a sense of humor. Its six shot Irish cup of coffee is called at an “ER 9-1-1.” It is a good corporate citizen, too, donating to local food drives, for example.

images-11“Dutch Brothers got in very early in the drive-through espresso game,” a franshise owner told the Gresham (Ore.) Outlook. “They were definitely at the forefront of the industry. Now they’re open in seven states.”

(photo from vbusa.com)

Is it time to legalize pot?

A press release from the county Sheriff’s Office informs us that, with the help of a state Alcohol Beverage Control grant, agents recovered “several pounds” of processed marijuana at a home in Grass Valley — the result of a sting operation at Dos Banditos restaurant.

Marijuana restaurant?
Marijuana restaurant?

Fine, but I’m left wondering about the cost of a joint operation for a bust like this, in time and money: How much did this state grant cost taxpayers? How long did the investigation take? What else could the officers and agents have been doing instead?

I also wonder how much of a deterrent an arrest like this will be — to the defendants and future ones. Small-time pot deals are routine. We also know about the “revolving door” on crimes like this.

In short, is this the best use of taxpayer’s dollars when state government faces a financial crisis? At least it’s high time we apply the same cost benefit analysis to grants/enforcement as we do to any business practice — and ask some tough questions.

Some would argue it’s time to get more serious about legalizing pot — you know, collect some tax money, rather than just keep spending so much of it. It’s time for a public policy debate on the issue.

“Prohibition isn’t working any better for pot than it did for alcohol,” the San Jose Mercury News wrote in an editorial this week. “The drug is widely available and used across age and income groups. Enforcing laws against it, smoking out growers and jailing users, is wasting hundreds of millions of dollars that are needed for education and health care.”

(photo from sodahead.com)

Subtext of Foster vs. NC City Council to ponder

Is there a subtext to Nevada City Treasurer George Foster resigning? George comes from the right, and the Council comes from the left. Whatever; this is America.

But too often around here, nonpartisan issues become partisan ones — and personal, from some past incidents. (Foster was first appointed by ex-Mayor Steve Cottrell.) I see both sides, but why can’t we just agree to disagree and move on?

It’s often denied, but as a former colleague used to joke: “The politics are so nasty around here, because the stakes are so small.” No kidding. I see it all the time — on most all the elected or appointed “non partisan” bodies in our county.

In this case, residents like us, who are  just hoping Nevada City is run right (with a recent track record of gross incompetence), are caught in the middle.

George ran a business and is a longtime “three-digit address” homeowner: Why not welcome his expertise? What does an opinion cost us? The council has the final word.

Meanwhile, more and more of the city gets boarded up: Stonehouse, Dos Banditos (as previously reported), Broad Street Furnishings, and so on up the street.

When will we dispense with drama and just join hands to tackle the “big rocks”? The stakes are a lot higher nowadays than small-town politics of yesteryear.