Case study: Cutting too many reporters

posted by Mike on March 5th, 2008

When you cut your news staff to the bone, you’ll sometimes have to cover a subject without having any reporters who have a general understanding of it, have contacts in the field, and so on.

In this case, that subject is Worcester’s contract (PDF) with Charter Communications.

In the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, Nick Kotsopoulos wrote:

  • Charter will pay the city a 5 percent franchise fee, the maximum allowed under federal law. The 5 percent fee is based on Charter’s annual gross revenues for cable television. In the last fiscal year, Charter’s gross revenues totaled about $1.2 million.

He seems to be paraphrasing this bullet point from the City Manager’s letter to the City Council:

  • It provides for an annual 5% franchise fee (maximum allowed under Federal law). This is 5% of Charter Communication’s annual gross revenues for cable television. In FY07, it totaled approximately $1.2M.

The City Manager’s statement is ambiguous; it’s not clear what totalled $1.2M. Kotsopoulos guessed the Manager meant the gross revenues were $1.2M, but Kotsopoulos guessed wrong.

Anyone familiar with all the reports and debate over the cable contract would see that 5% of $1.2M revenue is only $60K a year, hardly enough for the City to pay for the Public Access, Education, and Government channels and its other telecom projects. That would mean a jaw-dropping cut in funding for these things, and would deserve to be a major part of the article.

Of course, the Manager was referring to $1.2M in franchise fees, not revenue.

I work for one of the local PEG channels, and when I first read the T&G article, and before confirming the stat was wrong, I was stunned, thinking I was out of a job.

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