‘News & Observer’ Subscriber Sues Paper — Over Cutbacks

By: Joe Strupp

In a move that was probably inevitable amid the ongoing wave of newspaper staff cuts, a subscriber to The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C., is suing the paper — for cutting its staff and issue size.

Keith Hempstead, a Durham lawyer and former reporter for the Fayetteville (N.C.) Observer, filed the suit last month in Wake Superior Court, the N&O reported. “He says he renewed his subscription in May just before the paper announced on June 16 the layoffs of 70 staff members and cuts in news pages,” the paper added. “The paper, he says, is now not worth what he signed up for and therefore the cuts breached the paper’s contract with him….

“Plaintiff alleges fraud in that the newspaper announced changes in the coverage after procuring renewals from Plaintiff and other subscribers,” Hempstead says in the complaint, according to the paper.

In a phone interview with the N&O, Hempstead, 42, said he filed the suit to make a point.

“I wanted to get the newspaper’s attention and the news industry’s attention,” said Hempstead, adding later, “I hate to see what companies that run newspapers are doing to the product. The idea that taking the most important product and reducing the amount of news and getting rid of staff to me seems pointless to how you should run a newspaper business.”

John Drescher, N&O executive editor, did not appear to give the lawsuit much concern, saying in the story: “We’ve had some really good papers recently, and they’re worth more than the 36 cents a day that Mr. Hempstead is paying us ? In fact, he owes me money. So when he gets a lawyer, he can work with my lawyer and figure out how much he’s going to pay me for the excellent coverage he’s been getting recently.”

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