Blood on the Newsroom Floor: It’s still flowing


We’ve been remiss in catching up on the latest carnarge in the ink-stained wretch trade, what with all the fascinating news from Europe these days.

But we’re back, and there’s still plenty flowing.

Sad news in Salt Lake

Invariably these days it’s copy editors who lead the list of the laid off.

This is particularly sad, because it ensures that stories won’t get the thorough checking that was characteristic of journalism in its better days.

Even worse, though it’s not the case here, newspaper chains are consolidating the copy editing in distant locales, assigning stories to editors who don’t knew the communities covered in the stories they vet.

From Paul Beebe of the Salt Lake Tribune:

The Salt Lake Tribune on Wednesday laid off nine newsroom employees as it continues to cope with weak advertising revenue and falling print circulation.

The layoffs, 7.5 percent of the newsroom staff, reduce the number of journalists employed at Utah’s largest newspaper to 119 people, Deputy Editor Tim Fitzpatrick said.

Five of those laid off were assigned to the paper’s copy desk. Four worked at other duties in the newsroom.

“We are sorry to see them go,” Editor Nancy Conway said in a message to staffers. “These folks, like everyone in the newsroom, have contributed to the strength of The Salt Lake Tribune and served readers all across the state of Utah.

Read the rest.

Heartache in Hartford

Through buyouts instead of layoffs, the kinder, gentler way of destroying jobs.

From Columbia Journalism Review‘s The Kicker:

The Courant—owned by Tribune since 2000, when the Chicago-based company merged with then-owner, Times Mirror—was caught in the fallout from Tribune’s bankruptcy in late 2008. The newsroom has shrunk from some 400 employees 15 years ago to fewer than 150 today.

The most recent buyout offer, which expired last week, has resulted in the loss of nine more newsroom staffers, including rock critic Eric Danton, columnist Susan Campbell, night editor Nancy Gallinger, reporter Mark Spencer, reader-submitted articles editors Mary Wilson and Sandra James, newsroom assistant Lynne Maston, and sports reporter Shawn Courchesne. I don’t know who the ninth person is, or whether this buyout will be enough to avert layoffs. (update: I’m told the nine employees won’t know officially if their buyout requests are accepted until Friday.)

Read the rest.

Printers de-pressed in Virginia

Not reporters, but comrades in arms. And they’re falling victim to the same consolidation trend as copy editors.

From Poynter’s MediaWire:

Digby Solomon, publisher of the Newport News, Va., Daily Press says consolidating the Daily Press Media Group’s printing at Media General’s Hanover County, Va., plant was “the most viable business option” for the Tribune Company-owned papers. About 85 people who work at the Daily Press’ plant in Newport News will lose their jobs; Solomon tells the Daily Press he’s called local business owners to encourage them to hire the cashiered employees.

Media General prints its Richmond (Va.) Times-Dispatch as well as several other daily and weekly papers at its Hanover plant. Besides their namesake daily, the Daily Press Media Group’s papers include The Virginia Gazette and the Tidewater Review.

In April, Solomon announced the Daily Press would move much of its content behind a paywall. Describing the decision, he wrote that by making content free on the Web initially, “We neglected to leverage the one critical advantage we have over both the big national aggregators like Google and the guys who blog at home: the pros who run the Peninsula’s largest news organization.”

Read the rest.

Maui wowee, 14-18 jobs

This one’s a major cutback, considering the paper’s circulation is under 22,000.

From blogger iLind:

Did you catch the story in the Maui News earlier this week announcing a new contract that includes pay cuts, higher medical premiums, and layoffs?

The story, which ran without a byline, reports 14-18 positions at the newspaper will be eliminated through “voluntary” departures or layoffs. That’s got to be a big chunk of the newspapers staff. The did not say whether a severance package is being offered as an incentive to leave.

Read the rest.

Reporters will be working two-and-a-half hours less each week, a move to delay an overall pay and pension coming in another year.

Better late than never, and local

And it’s about that copy desk consolidation, this time at the Denver Post, which is implementing the same practices carried out the smae owner here in the San Francisco Bay Area.

From Steve Myers of MedaWire:

A memo from Contra Costa Times Executive Editor Dave Butler shows that another MediaNews paper is shifting copy-editing responsibilities within the newsroom. Thursday morning, Westword published a memo from Denver Post Editor Gregory Moore saying copy-editing would be moved to the “content-generating level,” with cuts to the copy-editing staff.

Now Butler tells his staff that senior editors have been discussing changes at the Contra Costa Times and with other Digital First Media newspapers. “Our idea, like Denver’s, is to put more responsibility for copy editing on the editor doing the initial story read — especially on routine stories,” he writes. The changes will result in about 10 to 12 job cuts, he says. Here’s how he describes the overall shift:

Those of you on our committees rethinking “digital first” are aware of many discussions about how to get copy editing done earlier in the process — with the focus more on digital and less on the paper — and more of a once-and-done approach to stories, rather than writing and editing several versions. Similar efforts are going on across the company — especially at larger papers, where more traditional copy desks continue to operate. A second or third edit on most stories has become a luxury most newspapers no longer can afford.

The San Jose Mercury News and The Oakland Tribune, among others, also are part of Bay Area News Group.

More on those Denver jobs from Michael Roberts of Westword:

At this point, neither representatives of the Denver Post nor the folks at the Denver Newspaper Guild seem eager to talk in detail about a plan to lay off two-thirds of the copy editors at the paper of record. However, we’ve gotten more information about the likely fallout. In the end, as many as sixteen copy editors, representing close to a tenth of the Post’s editorial staff, are expected to lose their jobs.

Post editor Greg Moore and I exchanged missed calls earlier this week, but he indicated he would talk about the subject at a later date, when plans are firmed up. The Guild, meanwhile, is limiting its public comments to a statement on view below that describes the layoffs as a “shortsighted cost-cutting measure that will irreparably damage The Denver Post.”

One possible reason for mutual reticence: The Post and the Guild are currently negotiating a new contract. Because the latest pact expired in March, Guild members are working under an open-ended extension.

The copy desk at the Post is large, with as many as 25 people employed in this area. As such, the two-thirds figure translates to around sixteen layoffs by month’s end. We hear staffers won’t formally interview for the new gigs. Instead, they’ll be informed about the attendant duties and can then choose to leave or express interest in sticking around. If more than the available number of positions take the latter course, seniority will determine who remains.

Read the rest.

Washington Post downsized through buyouts

And the total is large.

From Steve Myers of Poynter’s MediaWire:

Thirty-two Guild-represented employees have taken up The Washington Post on its buyout offer, writes Guild co-chair Freddy Kunkle in an email to members. The total number, including editors, is probably close to 50; the company reportedly has capped the number of people who could take part at 48.

More than a dozen of the Guild-represented employees who have accepted the buyout are Asian-American, African-American or Latino, Kunkle writes. If the company accepts all those offers, that would mean at least 37.5 percent of the Guild buyouts would be minorities.

The Post newsroom has 25.3 percent minority representation, according to the most recent ASNE census; newspapers with similar circulation average about 20 percent. (The Guild and ASNE census figures are not exactly comparable because the census counts total newsroom employment, including management, and the Guild represents employees outside the newsroom.)

The company has said it would start informing employees on Friday whether it has accepted their resignation offers. In his original email announcing the buyouts, Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli said, “we may turn down some volunteers if we feel their departure would impair our journalism.”

Read the rest.

And the reason for those WaPo buyouts

Consider the latest grim financial news from Media Jobs Daily:

The newspaper division of the Washington Post Company recorded a loss of $22.6 million for the first quarter of 2012, compared to $12.8 million a year prior.

That’s on revenues of $142 million, down 8 percent from $155 million, largely “due to reductions in general, classified and preprint advertising,” the company said. Online revenue from washingtonpost.com and Slate.com fell 7 percent to $24.2 million. That means digital now makes up 17 percent of the company’s revenues.

The loss comes from the decline in revenue, the company said, as well as an $8.6 million pension expense and nearly $2 million in early retirement expenses. Newsprint, however, cost the company 11 percent less, as it was using 11 percent less of it.

Read the rest.

New York Times layoffs, newsroom exempted

The cuts are coming from what reporters call “the business side,” the folks whose presence was almost never tolerated in the newsroom back when esnl was a cub reporter.

From Brian Stelter of the New York Times:

The New York Times Company cut about 50 positions [last] week from human resources, legal, finance and other corporate departments, the company confirmed on Friday.

The layoffs did not affect any positions in the newsroom, a company spokesman said. The Times, like other newspaper owners, has grappled with revenue declines by selling assets and reducing head-counts in recent years. The business side of The Times has suffered more severe cuts than the newsroom, particularly as the company has sold off its television stations and its regional newspapers.

The spokesman, Robert Christie, declined to specify how many people were let go in the latest round of cuts, which took place on Wednesday and were initially reported by the media-news blogger Jim Romenesko.

Read the rest.

A score or more gone in Phoenix

And this time they are newsroom jobs.

Phoenix Business Journal reporter Mike Sunnuck with the details:

Another round of buyouts and staff departures are happening at the Arizona Republic.

Sources familiar with the situation said about two dozen Republic news staffers are leaving The Gannett Co.-owned newspaper.

The list of Republic departures includes veteran business reporters Betty Beard and Max Jarman, editorial writer Kathleen Ingley and long-time writer and Phoenix Coyotes beat reporter Jim Gintonio. They’ve all announced early retirements from the daily Phoenix paper.

Read the rest.

And more carnage in Colorado

This time it’s in Loveland, a town a dozen or so miles from where we spent out middle school and high school years in Fort Collins.

From Colorado’s LovelandPolitics.com:

It is with no pleasure we report the unfortunate news that the Loveland Reporter Herald’s new owner, MediaNews, will begin a second round of substantial layoffs at Loveland’s only daily newspaper this month.

One insider reports the entire staff could be as few as 20 people by the end of June this year. This isn’t only terrible news for the people receiving the pink slips but also the community they have served for many years.

Despite our differences at times with the Editorial staff and others we have always maintained a link to the newspaper’s website on our homepage and never endorsed sporadic calls for boycotts by some readers and posters on this blog. We have consistently subscribed to the newspaper and always recognized the enormous contribution they make to our community.

Read the rest.

No layoffs — yet — in Chicago

Instead, it’s another tale of media consolidation, an event almost always followed by layoffs, say, of copy editors, printers, and business types.

From Lynne Marek of Crain’s Chicago Business:

Wrapports LLC, the parent of the Chicago Sun-Times, is poised to purchase the Chicago Reader as soon as next week for about $3 million, according to sources familiar with the transaction.

The alternative weekly is being sold by New York investment firm Atalaya Capital Management L.P., which acquired it along with four other weeklies out of bankruptcy in 2009 after lending money to prior owners at Tampa, Fla.-based Creative Loafing Inc.

Wrapports CEO Tim Knight couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. Chicago Reader Publisher Alison Draper declined to comment, saying she wasn’t aware of anything being “official.” The deal hasn’t closed and could still fall apart.

Read the rest.

One response to “Blood on the Newsroom Floor: It’s still flowing

  1. Eats Fruits & Nuts

    As a freelance writer with both staff & stringer experience, I’ve watched many newspapers “fold” since I began as a cub at age 21. Today, many people write pro-bono just to keep their portfolio fresh. Most is web-based content. I’ve been around to witness this dramatic change myself, and despite the fact that the news business has to be the most cutthroat industry there is, I have to say it was all a labor of love. I was given opportunity despite my being unable to afford college for the required degree. Nowadays, what is there left to do but keep a “day job” and blog on the side?
    BTW, thanks again, ES&L. Keep up the good work!

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