Today, our longest and worst-ever dose of bad news for our fellow ink-stained wretches, with this week’s body count in the hundreds, with the promise of more bodies to come.
Our list of layoffs covers the country, but we’ll start with another form of journalistic agony, the kind that comes from those damn nylon lashups cops use when making mass arrests.
First up: The Occupy arrest tab
While they’ve not lost their jobs, at least 26 journalists have been arrested during the Occupy actions across the country, reports Choire Sicha of The Awl.
She links to a valuable resource for anyone tracking police harassment of the press during the ongoing protests, a frequently updated Storify web page by Josh Stearns.
And before we get to the done deals. . .
More layoffs likely for San Francisco Bay Area newsies
The grim news comes via the San Francisco Peninsula Press Club, and it concerns BANG, the Bay Area News Group.
BANG’s a unit of MediaNews, the Denver-based chain which controls the largest single share of newspaper circulation in California, with a Southern California units call LANG [Los Angeles Newspaper Group], and the bad news will likely apply to them.
MediaNews has been ruthlessly in delocalizing news at its local papers, which are filled with regional stories and precious little local news, a reflection of the chains consolidation of editing functions into regional hubs where stories are picked and edited by folks with few or no ties to the local papers.
Both BANG and LANG have been ruthlessly downsizing reportorial and editing staffs, most recently in the last month. And now it looks like more cuts are a-comin’:
Ouch! After a painful round of layoffs at the MediaNews Group papers in the Bay Area, more be on the way. At least that’s one way to read a New York Times profile of CEO John Paton. He came from the Journal Register Company, which has papers in Ohio, New Jersey and other states in that part of the country.
His strategy is “outsourcing most operations other than sales and editorial, focusing on the cost side that might include further layoffs, stressing digital sales over print sales with incentives, and using relationships with the community to provide some of the content in their newspapers.”
While print ads pay the bills at most newspapers, Paton “is absolutely convinced that if newspapers are to survive, they will all but have to set themselves on fire, eventually forsaking print and becoming digital news operations.”
But the biggest body count comes from Michigan
And we’re talking numbers in the hundreds.
From WOOD TV in Grand Rapids, Michigan:
The Grand Rapids Press and the Kalamazoo Gazette will lay off more than 200 workers combined as part of a massive corporate overhaul, according to letters sent to the state early this month.
The Grand Rapids Press will lay off 146 employees in January, according to a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) letter sent to Manager of the Workforce Investment Act Stephanie Beckhorn on Nov. 2.
According to another Nov. 2 letter, the Kalamazoo Gazette will lay off 77 employees.
The 223 positions being terminated range from officer managers and clerks, to press operators and technicians, to sales people and editors.
Both layoffs will be effective Jan. 2, 2012.
The letters were sent in compliance with the WARN Act, which went into effect in 1989. WARN requires employers to provide 60 days notice in advance of mass layoffs. The notification must be sent to either union leaders or the appropriate state agency, as well as the local government.
Both the Press and Gazette are owned by the same newspaper company, Booth Newspapers.
Read the rest.
Unhappy news from the homes of the Happiest Place on Earth™
That would be Orlando, Florida, home of Disney World.
From Poynter’s MediaWire comes word that 16 journalists are being given the ax at the Orlando Sentinel:
Current and former staff say 12 of those laid off were full-time employees; four were part-time. Movie critic Roger Moore was reportedly one of them. The cuts came from various parts of the newsroom but appear to have struck the copy desk particularly hard. In addition, I’m told that several open positions were eliminated. Editor Mark Russell told the staff how many had been laid off in a newsroom meeting on Wednesday, a source tells me. I sought a comment from Tribune Co. and will update if I get further information.
And here’s a critical detail from Richard Bilbao of the Orlando Business Journal:
The paper reportedly planned to lay off 20 people earlier this year, and had a mass layoff in 2009 during the recession. That’s when The Tribune Co., which owns the Orlando Sentinel, undertook widespread layoffs and other cost-cutting measures to deal with nearly $13 billion in debt, $8 billion of it incurred in its leveraged buyout in 2007 orchestrated by Chicago real estate magnate Sam Zell. In an interview with Bloomberg Television in late 2009, Zell said the Tribune deal represented “certainly the most amount of money I’ve ever lost in a single deal.”
The detail is of interest to Berkeley readers, because Zell is our city’s largest private landlord, making hefty sums off renting expensive apartments to UC Berkeley students.
The dreaded C-word, consolidation
MediaNews isn’t the only chain engaged in delocalizing news by merging editorial operations for local papers into single, delocalized huds, invariably wracking up body counts in the process.
The latest C-move from Media Bistro’s Rachel Kaufman:
The American Independent is consolidating all its news from seven state sites into one larger site, which has resulted in at least one layoff so far.
The Minnesota Independent was the first to announce the news publicly, with a post from American Independent founder David S. Bennahum.
“After five years of operation in Minnesota, the board of the American Independent News Network, has decided to shift publication of its news into a single site, The American Independent at Americanindependent.com,” Bennahum wrote.
MN Independent reporter-editor Jon Collins has lost his job, he told MinnPost’s David Brauer, who had the MN Independent shutdown news first.
Similar (okay, totally identical) farewell messages have been posted to the websites of the Michigan Messenger and the New Mexico Independent. Nothing yet from Colorado, Florida, and Texas, where the American Independent Network also has sites.
The Washington Independent shut its doors nearly a year ago, citing financial problems.
Read the rest.
And at least five bodies black-bagged in Virginia
From Joe Dashiel of WDBJ television in Roanoke:
A difficult economy and a shifting marketplace continue to bring changes at the Roanoke Times. A reorganization announced this week includes two voluntary retirements, three layoffs and other reassignments. Managers say they are also positioning the newspaper for a “Digital First” approach that will bring dramatic Continue reading