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Man Sues Newspaper For Laying Off Reporters

from the everything-must-stay-the-same,-always dept

It's no secret that plenty of newspapers have been cutting staff and even the size of their papers in recent months. It's really a reaction to the fact that newspapers spent way too many years in denial that they were no longer the only news sources in town. So now they finally have to adjust, and one first step is shedding some overhead. However, one newspaper subscriber to the News & Observer in North Carolina is suing the paper over its recent cuts. It sounds like it's mostly just a publicity stunt, but Keith Hempstead, a lawyer (and former reporter), says he renewed his subscription in May, just before the paper announced cuts. Thus, he claims, he's getting less than what he was promised when he subscribed -- and that's somehow fraud. It's doubtful this lawsuit will go anywhere and the "point" Hempstead is making actually seems backwards. Marketplaces change and companies in those marketplaces need to change to keep up with the market. Suing them for changing is hardly going to encourage newspapers to embrace necessary change.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

    Jake, Jul 11th, 2008 @ 8:52am

    Seeing as the article to which you link implies that this newspaper's idea of 'change' involves firing a lot of reporters and replacing articles with more ad-space, I think you're giving him slightly too little credit there. It's still an utter waste of time and effort, but it's in kind of a good cause.


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    Phillip Vector, Jul 11th, 2008 @ 8:52am


    Can't he... Just... You know... Cancel his subscription?


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    Abdul, Jul 11th, 2008 @ 9:05am

    Hard times at the New York Times

    This is certainly a ludicrous lawsuit and i don't think it will fly any way! But on the general note, it seems newspapers are now facing the stark reality of what many have been projecting over the years. Even the mighty NYT is now facing 'crunch time' and who knows in a decade's time from now if the following prediction will hold true:Internet to Render Journalists Obsolete?(


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    Todd, Jul 11th, 2008 @ 9:25am

    That'll Work!

    I can see it now. Numbnuts here will spin doctor his way into winning the case because another blood sucking parasite of a judge will agree with him. And he will most likely "deserve" some sort of monatary damages that will ensure he will NEVER have to work again. And the paper will have to cut MORE staff to pay for the lawsuit. BRILLAINT!!!


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    Boo, Jul 11th, 2008 @ 9:31am

    lawyers...dirty lawyers

    here -> I'll say it... TORT REFORM.


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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 11th, 2008 @ 9:36am


    No it's not. You can't sue someone just because they change their business model. Even if they make their product crappy, you can't *sue* them for that. Cancel your subscription and say nasty things about them on the Internet, but suing them is dumb.


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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 11th, 2008 @ 9:57am

    and.... this becomes a legal burden for the paper that will cost them money..

    .. and where will some of the money come from to fight this stupid lawsuit? Yes, you guessed it. By firing even more people!


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    John, Jul 11th, 2008 @ 10:02am

    Change business model?

    >someone just because they change their business model.

    What is you ordered a Dell PC with 4GB of RAM. But then they shipped you 2GB, because 4GB didn't really fit their business model?

    Or a better example... what if you bought tickets to a concert, but then, because they didn't have enough ticket sales, they cancelled the original band and gave you a cover band instead.

    I don't know if he should sue, but getting a refund shouldn't be out of the question. He did get a subscription based on their current number of reporters and their ability to relay the news. With less reporters, he gets less.


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    manny, Jul 11th, 2008 @ 10:21am

    Re: Change business model?

    that example pretty much stunk as the physical limitation of a 32 bit operating system (at least windowsXP and vista) is 3 gig of ram so I guess suing microsoft (known by some techs as the BORG) for not thinking of that when the OS was created


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    John, Jul 11th, 2008 @ 10:27am

    Silly Manny

    Who said anything about ordering a MICROSOFT operating system? Dells run Linux just fine...


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    Joe, Jul 11th, 2008 @ 10:53am

    Not sure the reasoning is on track here

    My guess is that he signed up for a subscription and wants to get a prorated rate for the newspaper. Since he has a background in both reporting and law he can pretty much represent himself in the case, and may be trying to keep reporting jobs alive in the process so his income doesn't suffer.

    I'm not saying it's right but i highly doubt he has thought of the newspapers evolving business model. More or less he's probably retired and bored with a need for somethign to fight about/for.


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    Zoe Bloodhound, Jul 11th, 2008 @ 11:56am

    Re: Change business model?

    I don't anyone disagrees with the fact that he might just have a case for getting a refund on his subscription.
    I think you're examples are rather stupid mind you.
    Would you sue DELL if they sent you a PC with less memory than you paid for, but really what does that mean? You might have paid for 4GB, but if it didn't fit their model they could say the price of 2GB went up.
    In your "BETTER" example, would you sue the REAL band, the concert promoter,the cover band, the venue, etc?I think by demanding a refund, you would get you're money back.

    But truly, a better example would be...Guy buys a hooker for the night, turns out the hooker is actually a man. He's not getting exactly what he paid for, now is he, but he has 2 choices:
    1. Shut the F' up and take it like a man
    2. Get his money back
    Oh wait, i forgot #3...sue the pimp for false advertising because he ran out of female hookers.


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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 11th, 2008 @ 12:19pm

    Re: Re: Change business model?

    Actually, 32bit OS like Windows XP and Vista are 4gb.

    b ut back to the topic.... this lawsuite is dumb.


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    Jessica Benjamin, Jul 11th, 2008 @ 12:22pm

    Responsibilty to Readers

    I think this is excellent. It’s time for newspaper owners to realize that they have a responsibility to more than just their shareholders. They have a responsibility to their READERS. And to fulfill this responsibility, they need more than canned, national “content providers” they need local news reporters. Maybe they should concentrate on paying their executives and shareholders less and fulfilling what I believe should be their true mission: providing the general public news and information so everyone who chooses is able to be knowledgeable about and effect change in their own neighborhood.


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    Kirk Cheyfitz, Jul 11th, 2008 @ 12:22pm

    Newspapers aren't the only source?

    I think I know what you mean when you say newspapers were slow to understand "that they were no longer the only news sources in town." But it's important to point out that, in many ways, they ARE the only source in town. Virtually everything on TV and 90% of the interesting stuff on blogs begins with a newspaper report. TV editors send out their crews based on daily newspapers. Bloggers argue with, react against and comment on newspaper stories (or TV pieces that began with newspaper stories). Newspapers, largely, are the only organizations keeping reporters in the field to initiate and investigate local and national stories. If they disappear, we're all going to miss them.


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    To Manny, Jul 11th, 2008 @ 12:25pm

    Re: Re: Change business model?


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    mick, Jul 11th, 2008 @ 12:28pm

    Reporters Rock!

    I like the analogy to buying tickets for a concert.

    Reporters are like musicians:
    1)They both reveal a unique view of life that would be forever lost if they weren’t there.
    2)They have to be nurtured to become greats. Okay, some have talent and some don’t.
    3)Newspaper moguls trying to increase profit by laying off reporters is like a record label ripping off musicians.

    We'll probably see schools cutting English department funding next.


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    GTFO My Lawn, Jul 11th, 2008 @ 12:49pm

    The SF Chronicle is getting so hard up for new subscribers, they started delivery free daily papers to my entire apartment complex last month. For a while I just let them sit out there on my lawn. After 2 weeks, the delivery guy didn't get the point and kept tossing papers onto the pile.

    After a month I got tired of it all so I ambushed the guy at 5:30 one morning with a Hefty trash bag full of all the papers. I told him to take them back and stop littering on my lawn.


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    dru, Jul 11th, 2008 @ 12:55pm


    Someone should just kick this guy in the nuts. Preferably the judge, right before he tosses the suit out as frivolous and makes him pay for all the legal fees for the newspaper.

    GFTO: ROFL! I had the exact situation some time ago myself. Stupid free papers accumulating to the point you could not walk up the front steps to my house.
    I wound up waiting for the imbecile and confronting him with it. He shrugged his shoulders, but agreed to stop throwing the POS on my steps.


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    billy bong, Jul 11th, 2008 @ 1:47pm


    people are sick of the leftist crapola in the print media - and television.

    print media sales (newspapers) have been plumetting. new business model? Not necessarily. if they want to expand revenues they are going to have to come up with a product that people want to read.
    I'm going with "the truth" - people will buy that.


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    Vincent Clement, Jul 11th, 2008 @ 2:10pm

    Re: Responsibilty to Readers

    Then why don't you start up a newspaper that fulfils that responsibility?


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    Danny, Jul 11th, 2008 @ 2:12pm

    Re: Subscription

    "Can't he... Just... You know... Cancel his subscription?"

    My thought exactly. They give him his money back and he has no standing to sue. Gotta be cheaper for them to even retroactively give him the full subscription back than spend even one hour of legal time on this case.


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    Phillip Vector, Jul 11th, 2008 @ 2:23pm

    Re: Re: Subscription

    I suspect that if they did that, he would still sue.

    Some people need excitement in their life.


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