Employees of the European information media giant REUTERS have been informed that they are about to be downsized. This is apparently a shock to Reuters personnel who thought that their merger with THOMSON-WEST would guarantee their economic security.
They should have read their own news reports. THOMSON is the very epitome of the slash-and-burn corporate model. The founder of the company was a Canadian press baron who bought up a slew of hometown newspapers, cut news reporting, and turned content over to a national headquarters which eschewed investigation for simple press release journalism, i.e. acquire governmental and corporate releases, re-write them as news copy and then put the paper to bed. Easy-peasy.
The idea that journalist had an ethical obligation to their readers, to democratic government or the truth became a quaint remembrance. The Thomson goal was an annual return on capital of 15%. And they did it by transforming newspapers into advertising circulars.
This drove the market value up, and while it ultimately led to the death of news journalism, the ultimate result was of little concern. The management goal was to maximize profits temporarily so as to prettify the balance sheet in preparation for a quick sale. That is what was done, scores of newspapers with puffed profit statements were quickly sold off for a handsome sum. The cash infusion was used to buy new media especially internet-based and computer databases.
Eventually this brought Thomson to West Publishing of Saint Paul Minnesota. West is the company that owns the Law. Yes, owns the Law. You see, law is publicly produced and supposedly accessible to the public who pays for it. West gathered up laws, regulations, ordinances, and court decisions for free and turned around in-putting such data into proprietary databases. So when lawyers or government agencies needed to look up the law they had to pay West for the privilege. West was a veritable goldegg-laying goose.
West was Thomson’s crown jewel until Reuters went on the market. Reuters was Thomson’s primary competitor in the info biz. It a myth of the capitalist hype-sters that capitalism is based on competition. Capitalists hate competition, and when they can’t destroy it, they buy it. Thus Reuters wedded Thomson, and Reuters employees found themselves Thomsonified. If you have a monopoly there is no need to produce quality. Reuters will be slimmed-down and operations transferred to China (as happened to West’s Law). A captive (literally, “captive”) workforce in China will free up cash for Thomson to maintain its position in the database markets in the USA and Europe.