I just took an 8 percent salary cut — and so did almost everyone else here at Contemporary Media, Inc., which publishes the Flyer, Memphis magazine, Memphis Parent, MBQ, and various other specialty magazines. Employees at the lower end of the pay scale took a 4 percent cut. The company's 401(k) matching program was also suspended. The cuts are intended to be temporary and will be reevaluated at the end of the second quarter.
Nobody around here, to say the least, is happy about this development, but the cuts were made as a proactive measure in light of the sagging economy. The good news is that all our current employees kept their jobs. And the even better news is that CMI has no debt to pay off and we anticipate being able to operate our businesses comfortably, even in this troubled economy.
We have another advantage: We are relentlessly local. That is to say, our customers' businesses are, for the most part, owned by Memphians. As Memphis goes, so goes the Flyer. We are not dependent on large chain advertisers' slick inserts to pay our bills, and that's a good thing.
And we are cautiously optimistic. Some of our realtor customers tell us that home sales are beginning to pick up. Beale Street has several weekend events planned for February — including the International Blues Challenge and the Zydeco Festival — that traditionally stimulate local tourism. The casinos seem to be hanging in there nicely. In fact, the Flyer you are holding "sold out" of advertising space — a very good thing, indeed.
We are also in the midst of a plan to increase the Flyer's circulation. Around 95 percent of the 52,000 papers we distribute each week are picked up, which tells us two things: 1) Our price — free! — is right, and 2) there are a lot more Memphians who would pick us up if we printed more papers.
I'm no Pollyanna, but I have lived long enough to know that everything, including the economy, runs in cycles. The current crunch is painful but not permanent. There is a Zen saying I lean on in hard times: "Yesterday, my house burned down. Today, I have a better view of the rising moon."
Here's to the rising moon.
I'm writing this from the restroom facility at Big Hill Pond State Park in southern McNairy County. On Monday, I commandeered the building, which contains the men's and women's restrooms, some racks of pamphlets, and two vending machines. There's no one here right now, but I plan to stay as long as necessary to protest the fact that the state of Tennessee is run by oppressive know-nothings who wouldn't know small government — or freedom, for that matter — if it bit them on their considerable backsides ...