Newspaper Roundup: MediaNews’ Debt; Gannett’s Detroit Papers; NAA’s ’09 Optimism; NYT Wage Freeze

imageMediaNews’ debt rating lowered on ad declines: Moody’s Investors Service has downgraded MediaNews Group’s credit rating to junk status. The credit rating agency fears the worsening economic climate will squeeze the publisher of The Denver Post and about 50 other newspapers even tighter. The ratings action affects $962 million worth of debt. Also, MediaNews CEO Dean Singleton is rejecting E&P’s contention that the company is approaching the kind of leverage that led Tribune Company to seek bankruptcy protection this week. The main difference is that most of its debt is held by Hearst, which also has a stake in the company.

Gannett’s Detroit papers may cut back home delivery: The publisher of Gannett’s Detroit Free Press and its partner, The Detroit News, may stop home delivery except on Thursday, Friday and Sunday, the most lucrative days for advertisers. A truncated edition would be printed on other days and sold at newsstands while readers would be urged to go online for a full digital version. The decision is expected to be made next week. With more readers dropping print for the web and circulation revenues trending downward, the move is considered a good way to get costs in line, after a year of deep layoffs and other cutbacks.

NAA forecast “too optimistic”: That’s the view from J.P. Morgan media analyst Alexia Quadrani, who tells Fitz&Jen that newspaper ad spend will drop 14- to 16 percent next year. She considers the National Newspaper Association’s revised -9.7 percent drop too sanguine. NAA, which now expects no growth for online newspaper ads next year, had previously forecast total newspaper revenues coming in -5.5 percent. The organization’s last forecast called for papers’ web ad dollars to rise 5 percent in ’09.

NYT wage freeze for ’09: Given all the layoffs in the newspaper industry lately, the news could be worse for NYT staffers. Both print and web employees were told that due to weak advertising across the board, there would be no pay increases next year.

Photo Credit: Lusi