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.
The U.S. Civil War ended in 1865, but there are many who will tell you that we're still fighting it and will find evidence of such in Jackson Baker's cover story about the current battle over General Nathan Bedford Forrest's statue and gravesite in Memphis ...
It's deep in a November night in Memphis, and I'm awakened by rain. It's coming down hard, sounding like a million pebbles hitting the roof. The gutter I've been meaning to clean is overflowing outside the bedroom window. A flash of lightning illuminates the room, and I do what I've done since I was a boy: count the seconds 'til the thunder rolls. I get almost to 10 before I hear a distant rumble. Two miles or so. Someone else's lightning ...