Whistling Taps in the newsroom

Alan Mutter compiles the bad news for news and media stocks. What’s worse than bad news? Really bad news?

The shares of five newspaper publishers plunged to new lows in early trading today, including the shares of GateHouse Media, which fell to $1 per share, threatening its ability to remain listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

Tumbling to new lows alongside GHS were Gannett (GCI at $16.43 per share), McClatchy (MNI, $4.58), News Corp. (NWS, $13.96) and New York Times Co. (NYT, $12.61). The companies sank to new historic lows on Friday, as reported here.

Media General (MEG) hit a new all-time low of $10.23 per share on Monday.

The only one of those I’d consider buying is NWS. But then again, buying any media stock today is surely foolishness.

Mutter also reported the bad news that online ad rates slid 14 percent in January. So much for that great hope.

No, it’s time for drastic and fast action. The clock is ticking. Or is that the sword above I hear?

: LATER (THAN YOU THINK): Mutter updates after the market close with the even-more depressing stats on the loss of market cap in the newspaper business. They’ve lost $4 billion in value since June 30. “At today’s close, the total decline in value of the dozen newspaper shares trading since the first of the year was nearly $27.7 billion, a plunge of 35.7% in 6½ months.”