Blood on the Newsroom Floor: 2012 cuts begin


The 2012 body count is adding up, though some numbers are in dispute.

San Diego Union-Tribune layoffs

When rich local investors shelled out $110 million for the San Diego Union-Tribune [U-T] last month, we predicted the bodies would soon fall, and they have.

Pat Maio of the North County Times [NCT] reports on the latest in an article which notes that the NCT is on the wish list of future acquisitions by the same team that bought the San Diego paper:

[T]he U-T on Friday laid off about 10 employees who were associated with the old signonsandiego.com website, mostly technical and marketing-related jobs, [co-owner John] Lynch said. Some of the marketers were housed on the print side, as well, he said. The layoffs weren’t editorial workers, but generally those who didn’t possess the skill sets needed for the U-T as it shifts to the digital world, Lynch said.

Maio also gives us a grim reminder abut just how bleak it’s become for the newspaper trade:

The U-T has seen its average paid circulation with branded editions go from 319,606 in 2005 to 227,872 for the six months ended Sept. 30, 2011, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulation. Branded editions, besides home deliveries and single-copy sales, include Newspapers in Education copies, alternate-language newspapers, commuter newspapers and community newspapers.

The ABC branded figures also show that the Orange County Register fell from 302,110 to 270,809 over the same period, the Los Angeles Times from 905,107 to 572,998, and the North County Times from 91,097 to 74,168. The Riverside Press-Enterprise did not have a branded circulation figure in 2011, according to ABC. It saw its “unbranded” circulation fall during the same period as the other papers from 185,344 to 112,084.

Read the rest.

Major layoffs coming in North Carolina

It’s a paper owned by Sacramento-based McClatchy.

WRAL broadcasting in Raleigh reports:

The News & Observer is preparing to lay off about 10 percent of its newsroom staff and will announce other cuts affecting its news operation, sources inside the N&O tell WRAL.com.

A formal announcement may not come until next week, however. The N&O is part of the McClatchy (NYSE: MNI) newspaper chain, and the group reportedly is planning to announce corporate-wide cutbacks, one newsroom source said. McClatchy also owns The Charlotte Observer.

The nation’s third-largest newspaper chain is based in Sacramento, Calif. It reported May 21 that revenues for the first four months of 2008 were down 14 percent from the same period in 2007. McClatchy stock hit a 52-week low of $7.59 on Tuesday.

>snip<

The layoffs could affect as few as 15 or as many as 30 newsroom staffers, the sources said. Numerous people had expected the layoffs to be made Monday following an announcement by John Drescher, the paper’s senior vice president and executive editor, at a recent staff meeting that layoffs would take place.

Read the rest.

Printers bombed in New Haven

Though they’re not newsroom workers, in these days of ribbonless word processors, press operators are really the last group who really are ink-stain wretches.

From the New Haven Register:

The New Haven Register plans to outsource its printing operation to Hartford, laying off 105 people, and is planning to move key operations to new office space in downtown New Haven.

Publisher Tom Wiley said the move will enable the Register to launch an “open newsroom” where the public will be invited to participate in and observe local journalism. The Register’s new office will be modeled, in part, after the open-to-the-public Newsroom Café in Torrington that was launched by The Register Citizen, a sister publication of the Register.

“We’re excited to be opening our newsroom to our community,” Wiley said. “We have launched our Community Media Lab and community conversations and this is the next step in serving our community.”

Plans call for the Register, along with Journal Register Co. sister publications including The Register Citizen and The Middletown Press, to be printed in Hartford by the Hartford Courant beginning in February. The company is in the process of finalizing an agreement with the Courant for printing operations, Wiley said.

Read the rest.

Virginia bodies to fall, numbers in question

While there are conflicting reports about the ultimate body count, there’s no doubt that significant layoffs are coming, and 30 have already fallen in Newport News.

Daniel Curran who blogs at James River Journal writes:

The Daily Press will over the next few weeks lay off 150 of its remaining 300 employees, reducing its workforce by half.

Some of the employees losing their jobs are long term, having been with the paper for up to 33 years.

The paper has been steadily reducing its workforce in recent years.

Gary Weitman, Senior Vice-President of Corporate Relations for the Tribune Company, was called for an official statement.  Mr. Weitman, whose office is located in Chicago, is the spokesperson for the Daily Press on this issue. Although we have spoken via telephone with Mr. Weitmman’s staff, Mr. Weitman has not returned calls to James River Journal.

The Daily Press was first published on January 4, 1896. In 1986, the Bottoms/Van Buren families sold the company to the Tribune Company for $200 million.

Read the rest.

But there’s some doubt as to the real numbers, as Jim Romensko notes:

Tribune spokesman Gary Weitman says the blogger’s report of 150 pink slips “is just nowhere near the truth.” He adds: “There is some reorganization going on there, but it’s not anywhere approaching those kinds of numbers.”

He declined comment on the numbers given by my tipster.

UPDATE: Daily Press publisher Digby Solomon put out this statement:

Our business model continues to adapt – including rapid growth in our digital audiences and revenue – and as a result The Daily Press Media Group is continuously re-evaluating the skill sets we need among our employee base. Last week we eliminated the jobs of 30 employees who have been loyal contributors and who will be missed, but were in positions that we no longer require. We currently have 15 job openings for various areas in the company, including our newsroom and our advertising sales group.

Read the rest.

An online news ventures struggles

Patch, the local website news consortium owned by AOL, faces huge financial struggles, and as noted before, the operation run by Arianna “The Chameleon” Huffington amounts to a digital sweatshop where pay is low and journalists are pushed to hustle advertisers and orgnize marketing events — the ultimate breach of the “Chenese wall” that traditionally separates newsrooms from advertising departments.

But even Arianna’s outrageous ethical breeches aren’t proving enough to make the local websites economically viable.

Paul Gillin at Newspaper Death Watch writes:

AOL’s Patch operation, a constellation of more than 800 hyperlocal news sites, looks like a train wreck.

Tim Armstrong, AOLBusiness Inside says Patch has generated only about $8 million in revenue in 2011 on an investment of more than $160 million. InvestorPlace says revenues were closer to $20 million, but that Patch still lost $150 million on the year. Some investors are calling for the head of Tim Armstrong (right) the former Google executive who took the helm at AOL nearly three years ago. Armstrong conceived of Patch in 2007 and funded the first two years of its operations before assuming the top job at AOL in 2009 and buying Patch outright. Since then he’s embarked upon an aggressive expansion program to place hyperlocal news bureaus in as many US locations as possible. He’s also spent lavishly on the acquisitions of Huffington Post and TechCrunch. At this point, critics are calling the strategy a bust.

The problem with Patch is that the hyperlocal revenue model doesn’t work nearly as well as the hyperlocal news model. According to Business Inside, Patch sells advertising through a network of mostly outsourced telesales representatives. It’s clear that these sales people don’t have their tentacles into the local communities that are the core of Patch’s model. The advertising on our own local outlet is mostly a mix of display ads from big national brands (presumably sold at remainder prices), Google AdSense and a smattering of classifieds. With that kind of revenue base, it’s not surprising Patch is losing a fortune.

Read the rest.

Age discrimination suit presses forward

One of the dirty little secrets of downsizing is that corporations tend to axe those with the most experience, given that they’re the ones who draw the biggest paychecks and skew group health plans into costlier territory.

The loss of experience is bad enough, but the dismissal of older employees also represents a huge loss of both institutional and community memory.

We’re glad to see that at least one journalist is fighting back.

From Gannett Blog:

In an eye-opening decision, a U.S. district court judge has brushed aside Gannett’s attempts to dismiss a former Indianapolis Star columnist’s age-discrimination lawsuit, ordering that her suit move to a jury trial this spring.

The case offers a rare inside look at how GCI has engineered thousands of company-wide layoffs in recent years — including the single-largest, more than 2,000, in December 2008. What’s more, it could serve as a legal road map for other laid-off employees who also think they were victims of age discrimination.

Judge Richard Young didn’t rule on the central allegation made by the columnist, Susan Guyett, who was 59 when she was let go that December 2008. She was replaced by a co-worker who had less seniority and was 20 years younger. Indeed, Young noted that several of the 20 employees targeted that month were younger than Guyett.

But Young questioned what he called Editor Dennis Ryerson’s contradictory rationale for how he chose those to be laid off. And he suggested Ryerson had designed the reduction in force (RIF) to protect less-senior workers — including three working for the Metromix entertainment site whose ages ranged from 25 to 31.

Read the rest.

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