Category Archives: Blood on the Newsroom Floor

The latest news on news media layoffs and downsizings.

Blood on the Newsroom Floor: Massive job cuts


The death throes of American journalism quickened this week, with news of two major layoffs in the work, as well as smaller scale cuts either underway or in the works.

And there’s also bad news abroad, but with start with the most serious hemorrhages.

Washington Post prepares to gut newsroom

The paper of record in the nation’s capital is about to lose a big chunk of its reporting staff, in part because the company’s for-profit college business took a big hit after other media began taking a closer look at the way it’s run [previously].

From Andrew Beaujon of Poynter’s Media Wire:

[N]ews of a new buyout offer began circulating in The Washington Post newsroom. This is the paper’s fifth round of buyouts since 2004. Post ombudsman Patrick Pexton tweeted this afternoon that the buyouts would be capped at 48 people or 8 percent of the 600-person newsroom.

The Washington Post Company, which owns the Post, Slate, a community newspaper group, and an educational unit, had a dismal third quarter. Its report from that time period was filed last November (PDF). It said that newspaper revenue was down 9 percent from the same period the year before, advertising revenue shrank 20 percent, online revenue was down 14 percent, and circulation had declined (down 5.4 percent weekdays, 4.4 percent on weekends). The company’s newspaper division lost $9.9 million in the third quarter alone.

The Post Co.’s Kaplan unit saw its revenue fall by 79 percent following an unexpected government interest in the for-profit college sector.

Previous buyouts were financed by the Post’s gilded pension assets. As the company’s 2010 annual report (PDF) stated, “unusually for an S&P 500 company, we continue to have an overfunded pension plan. We haven’t had to contribute to the plan in decades. There’s almost no chance we’ll have to contribute in the near future.”

Read the rest.

Nation’s largest publisher warms up the chainsaw

Gannett, which controls the most daily newspaper circulation in the United States of any media chain, has announced it’s slashing hundreds of newspaper staffers, offering buyouts to their most senior and experienced staff.

The move follows two major payroll cutbacks last year, one of 700 announced in June and a second round of 200 in December.

From Gannett Blog, which is run by former USA Today editor Jim Hopkins, who writes:

Gannett is suddenly dangling buyouts before a pool of nearly 800 qualified U.S. newspaper employees who are 56 years old with at least 20 years’ service — a deal they have 45 days to accept or reject, the company said today in a memo. A maximum of 665 buyouts will actually be granted.

The offer is being made “instead of pursuing other cost management actions but we cannot rule out other actions in the future,” the memo says — leaving open the possibility of layoffs if an insufficient number of people step forward.

Read the rest.

Here’s the memo, sent to all 20,00 employees of the Community P:ublishing division:

CONFIDENTIAL

TO: U.S.C.P. Employees
FR: U.S. Community Publishing President Bob Dickey
RE: Voluntary Early Retirement Opportunity Program

Dear colleagues:

Today we are offering a voluntary Early Retirement Opportunity Program to 665 eligible U.S. Community Publishing employees who are age 56 with at least 20 years of service, as of March 31, 2012, and who are in certain departments and/or job categories. Eligibility by department or job category varies by each operating unit depending on its needs.

This offer was designed to be as attractive as or better than others in the industry. The Early Retirement Opportunity Program also is the first offered by Gannett since 2008. The offer provides for salary continuation of two weeks’ pay for each complete year of service, capped at 52 weeks, and ongoing health, dental and vision coverage during this period.

Employees who are eligible will have 45 days to accept. At the close of the offer period, Gannett will review acceptances and make final decisions based on the terms of the offer.

As mentioned – the program is completely voluntary for these valued, long-term employees. They have helped steer a strong and steady course for the company for many years, including through recent challenging economic times, and their work is deeply appreciated.

It’s worth noting that while 785 employees meet the criteria, the offer is being offered to 665 employees due to ongoing operational needs at the company. The offer is for U.S. Community Publishing employees only.

The Early Retirement Opportunity Program is one part of our ongoing strategy to transform the company with a focus on remaining the top news and information provider in your market. To accomplish this, it entails a ground-up assessment of our overall structure and resources. At this time we are offering this program instead of pursuing other cost management actions but we cannot rule out other actions in the future.

Please look for a separate letter today from your publisher, who will provide more details about this program and your location.

If you have any questions feel free to contact me or your publisher.

Bob Dickey President/U.S. Community Publishing

Age discrimination plagues newspaper layoffs

Gannett is restricting its latest round of buyouts to it’s oldest employees, a perfect example of an issue raised in an email to journalism analyst Jim Romenesko:

From R.G. RATCLIFFE:

Perhaps I’ve missed it, but has anyone done a story on how the newsroom layoffs of the past decade have been one of the greatest exercises in age discrimination in U.S. history?

This doesn’t count me because I quit in disgust after 33 years in the business. But every round of layoffs at every newspaper I’ve been personally familiar with have focused on the oldest of the employees, those between 50 and 65, with just a smattering of young people thrown in. Now, I know the argument is these people are targeted not because of their age but because of their high salaries. However, the result is that thousands of journalists who are beyond prime hiring age are being pushed out onto the streets. Some land well, some don’t. It just strikes me that if this was any business in America other than Continue reading

Blood on the newsroom floor: Hemorrhage resumes


The newsroom layoff scene began the year quietly, but no more.

The cuts are coming fast and heavy, from coast to coast.

Job ax falls at former Times papers

The Halifax Media Group brought the New York Times chain of smaller papers last year, and now up to 50 staffers may lose their jobs — 30 for certain and 20 more if they don’t move to corporate headquarters in Florida.

One of the papers sold is the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat, located north of San Francisco. So far no word how many positions may be offed there.

From Julie Moos of Media Wire:

About 30 employees of the former New York Times Regional Media Group were notified Friday that their new employer, Halifax Media Group, has decided to lay them off and offer severance packages. The other 20 were offered positions, but only if they relocated to Daytona Beach, Fla., where Halifax is headquartered.

A letter accompanying documents distributed Friday said Halifax “has reviewed the company’s Tampa operations to see where additional efficiencies can be achieved by eliminating or consolidating certain job functions and operations.”

Employees “who were offered a package were told that they wouldn’t be given severance if they speak to the media or publicly discuss the situation,” said one source. A second source confirmed the confidentiality clause, which reads, in part:

Employees agree to hold confidential both the terms of this agreement and the circumstances underlying it, except [to] the extent that he is required to reveal information under legal process. Employee may also reveal the details of this agreement to employee’s immediate family, accountant and attorney, but only if those individuals agree to keep confidential the information revealed to them.

The severance offer also includes a non-disparagement clause that prohibits signees from making “any disparaging or untrue statement about the company, its affiliates, owners, stockholders or about any employee of the company.”

Read the rest.

So I guess you can’t say “The assholes fired me after 20 years.”

San Francisco Examiner lays off at the top

The editorial chop comes after the paper laid off lower-level employees; just how many positions were axed remains a corporate secret.

From Erin Sherbert of SF Weekly:

Examiner Editor in Chief Deirdre Hussey has left the newspaper after more than 10 years. Initial reports say that Hussey resigned from the paper amid a change in ownership, however, the new owners say that her departure was a “mutual decision.”

Todd Vogt, president and publisher of the Examiner, told SF Weekly on Wednesday that after speaking with Hussey, the two decided to part ways effective immediately. Her abrupt departure included a nice severance. “Her institutional knowledge will be missed, but I think a fresh start and some fresh ideas in the Editor-in-Chief chair will be good,” Vogt said.

The staff was informed of the decision Wednesday afternoon. The paper has started a search for a new editor in chief.

“Everyone is personally sorry to see her go, but professionally, everyone agrees a change is welcomed,” Vogt told SF Weekly.

While the SF Appeal reports that sources claim Vogt asked Hussey to stay on as an editorial consultant, he denied that offer was ever made.

“We wish her the best,” Vogt said, offering no more comment.

The news came just a few days after the paper laid off an undisclosed number of employees as part of a major restructuring of the newspaper under its new ownership. In November, the former owner, Phil Anschutz announced he would sell the notoriously conservative newspaper to a consortium of shareholders. After the sale closed on Nov. 30, the new owners announced not only would it scrap all the crazy right-wing screeds, but there would be layoffs, too (in full disclosure, I once worked for Hussey at the Examiner).

Read the rest.

Oregon paper loses a quarter of its staff

It’s the result of yet another managerial takeover, reported by Hannah Hoffman of Willamette Week:

The Oregonian has taken over management of the Hillsboro Argus, according to Oregonian Editor Peter Bhatia.

Bhatia announced the change in Tuesday’s issue of the Argus.

Four Argus employees were laid off during the takeover, a nearly 25 percent cut to the newspaper’s staff.

The Oregonian and The Argus are already owned by the same company, Advance Publications, and share the OregonLive website. Bhatia says the takeover is merely “that relationship becoming closer.”

Read the rest.

On the East Coast, jobs fall in Connecticut

From the Danbury, Connecticut, News-Times:

On Friday afternoon, the Journal Register Company, parent company to the Housatonic Times and Litchfield County Times, laid off seven employees in the small New Milford operation. That leaves Continue reading

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 Continue reading

The Occupy MSM body count keeps rising


Over at Storify [corrected, see comment], Josh Stearns has been tracking the number of arrests of mainstream media journalists at Occupy events. Here’s his latest summary:

So far 36 journalists have been arrested in 10 cities around the United States since Occupy Wall Street began. Including citizen journalists affiliated with a variety of Occupy media teams the total is 50.

The arrests have tapered off in recent weeks, but that’s mainly because of the ruthless and well-coordinated police evictions of Occupy encampments across the country.

Unlike the citizen photojournalists and bloggers covering the Occupy movement, journalists for the mainstream media invariable prominently display their press credentials [often issued by police departments], usually handing from lanyards worn around their necks.

Since we first started following the journalist’s craft back in 1964, we have never seen such outright official hostility and violence aimed at the press, with one notable exception: The rage directed at Northern reporters by police during the civil rights movement of the 1950′s and 1960′s.

In both instances, reporters were single out because they were giving coverage to victims of oppression — people of color in the first instance and victims of a predatory financial system in the second [and, yes, the two forms of oppression are usually linked].

The major difference between the earlier anti-press actions and today’s actions lies mainly in the fact that today’s press corps is diminished in both numbers and power.

Back when we first started drawing our pay by banging away at a typewriter, the country had a great many more newspapers, and the ratio of reporters to population was much higher.

In those days, reporters were also a great deal more independent, knowing that if they got fired for being too uppity, they could find another job within days or a few weeks at most.

Reporters were also better paid, and had solid benefits.

Today, job insecurity is the rule in the nation’s newsrooms, and editorial departments are spread much thinner, with far fewer reporters covering their communities.Hundreds of local newspapers have died, and those that remain have been swallowed up by chains — invariably accompanied by layoffs, benefit cuts, and pay freezes and often cuts.

In other words, today’s journalists are are victims of the very same forces that have sparked the Occupy movement.

Then there’s the ongoing war of police against the camera, a campaign that was sparked by the infamous video of Los Angeles police beating the hapless Rodney King and escalated by the multiple videos of a transit cop killing Oscar Grant as he lay handcuffed and face to the ground in an Oakland Bay Area Rapid Transit station.

What the cops fail to recognize all too often is that they, too, are members of the 99 percent. Journalists, however, realize all too well on which side of the divide they fall.

Unlike police in the 1960′s South [who were just as white as their bosses], today’s men and women in blue have much more in common with the protesters than their elected masters, whose offices were bought and paid for by the contributions of the one percent.

Blood on the Newsroom Floor: No layoffs yet?


With 2012 well into its first week, there’s good news: No layoffs yet.

Or maybe not.

And one way or another, there’s still lots of bad news for the ink-stained-wretch crowd, including what amounts to a significant pay cut for staff at the newly purchased San Diego Union-Tribune.

Rupester hires a New York Daily News editor

And an import too. More precisely, an import from his now-defunct British tabloid, News of the World [NOTW] — the one he was forced to close after revelations its staff was hacking the phones of everyone from royals to murder victims.

And his New York hire is the guy who was running NOTW when the ax fell.

From the BBC:

Colin Myler, the last editor of the News of the World, has been named top editor of the New York Daily News.

The Daily News, a tabloid, is a direct competitor to Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post, where Mr Myler previously worked as executive editor.

He replaces editor-in-chief Kevin Convey as the company moves towards a more digital operation.

Mr Myler led the News of the World when it was closed in July 2011 amid an escalating scandal over phone hacking.

He has since testified about the paper’s involvement in the phone hacking scandal before the UK’s Leveson inquiry into press standards.

He told the inquiry that he feared there were “bombs under the newsroom floor”, referring to the prospect that there may have been widespread wrongdoing at the paper in the past.

Read the rest.

Gee, that should give New Yorkers a lot of confidence, eh?

More Daily News changes

Can you say “permalancer”?

That’s the term of art for journalists who work regular weekly schedules, but without the benefits granted regular staff.

Seems a lot of folks who wrote and snapped photos for the Daily News were just such critters, and now the paper is moving in a new direction.

Just what it means for the folks who were doing more for less remains unclear, as Joe Pompeo reports for the New York website Capital:

Editorial staff at the Daily News endured a fair amount of turbulence during the last months of 2011, including a masthead shakeup and a round of layoffs that claimed nearly 20 editorial positions.

Now it seems that another reorganization is at hand, involving the group of photographers and reporters at the paper who are “permalancers,” freelancers who work set schedules up to 40 hours a week but are not on payroll and don’t get benefits.

A handful of freelance reporters—at least four of them, according to sources—have just been offered staff jobs.

The hirings follow weeks of newsroom chatter that the permalancer pool was about to be dissolved, with some of them being brought on to salaried positions and others let go, suggesting that the News is seeking to curb its use of freelance talent, which generates a not insignificant amount of the tabloid’s content.

“I think we all sort of felt like this was gonna happen at some point,” said one source.

Some of those still awaiting word about their employment status—including some 20 photographers—are a bit on edge.

Read the rest.

New York Times staffers voice frustrations

There’s a new website called Save Our Times posted by members of the Newspaper Guild of New York, which represents newsroom staff at the nation’s leading daily newspaper.

To date, some 512 journalists have signed an Open Letter to Arthur Sulzberger Jr. petition posted at the website, which we reprint in full. Sulzberger is chair of the paper’s parent corporation:

Dear Arthur:

We, the Guild leadership and many reporters, editors, account managers and other Times employees, Guild members and otherwise, are writing to express profound dismay at several recent developments.

Our foreign citizen employees in overseas bureaus have just had their pensions frozen with only a week’s warning. Some of these people have risked their lives so that we can do our jobs. A couple have even lost them. Many have spent their entire careers at the Times — indeed, some have letters from your father explaining the pension system — and deserve better treatment.

At the same time, your negotiators have demanded a freeze of our pension plan and an end to our independent health insurance.

We ask you to withdraw these demands so that negotiations on a new contract can proceed fruitfully and expeditiously. We also urge you to reconsider the decision to eliminate the pensions of the foreign employees.

We have worked long and hard for this company and have given up pay to keep it solvent. Some of us have risked our lives for it. You have eloquently recognized and paid moving tribute to our work and devotion. The deep disconnect between those words and the demands of your negotiators have given rise to a sense of betrayal.

One of our colleagues in senior management recently announced her retirement from the paper, which is reported to include a very generous severance and retirement package, including full pension benefits.

All of us who work at the Times deserve to have a secured retirement; this should not be a privilege cynically reserved to senior management. We strongly urge you to keep faith with your words and our shared mission of putting out the best newspaper in the world.

Another campaign targets freelancer pay

The National Writers Union, which represent freelancers, has launched a campaign of its own called “Pay the Writers.”

One of their primary targets is plutocratic political chameleon Arianna Huffington.

Here’s their message, from their website:

As 2011 wraps up, it seems that everyone is weighing in on what writers can expect for 2012.  Technological innovations, the rise of citizen journalism and the News Co-op model are just a few things to look for next year. So where does the freelance journalist fit into all of this?

In August the National Writers Union/UAW Local 1981 launched the Pay the Writer! campaign in reaction to the sale of the Huffington Post.  “Whatever the ultimate impact of AOL’s $315-million acquisition of the Huffington Post on the new-media landscape, it’s already clear that the merger will push more journalists more deeply into the tragically expanding low-wage sector of our increasingly brutal economy.” wrote Tim Rutten shortly after the announcement of the merger.  In keeping with Continue reading

Blood on the Newsroom Floor: The video


A VOCER interview with City University of New York journalism professor and columnist Eric Alterman succinctly sums up much of what we’ve been saying about the the dismal impact of the ongoing destruction of American journalism.

H/T to Walled-In Pond.

Blood on the Newsroom Floor: 2011 body count


From Reflections of a Newsosaur

Our best guess for newsroom jobs lost this year is just over 4,000.

Former newspaper executive Alan D. Mutter, who blogs at Reflections of a Newsosaur, offers up a report on the year’s body count.

An excerpt:

As publishers scrambled to bring costs in line with diminishing revenues, 3,775+ newspaper jobs were eliminated in 2011, according to Erica Smith, the author of the Paper Cuts blog. The toll this year is nearly 30% greater than 2,920+ cuts Smith reported in 2010.

Smith says “+” because many publishers tend to fudge the numbers when they announce staff reductions. The best Smith can do, as she is the first to admit, is tally whatever hard numbers she gleans from the press – or contained in memos that land in her email. Because many announcements don’t contain numbers, she adds a + to the statistics she assembles.

Given this limitation, it is fair to conclude her statistics understate the number of people who have lost their jobs. But the trend she faithfully has been reporting is unmistakable.

Since Smith began her running count of publishing layoffs in the middle of 2007, 39,806+ newspaper jobs have been eliminated. This represents 11% of the all the jobs in an industry that, according to the Census Bureau, employed 360,633 individuals in 2007.

The worst newspaper layoffs occurred in 2008 and 2009, when, respectively, 15,993+ and 14,285+ pink slips were issued. Newspaper ad sales, the primary source of industry revenues, plunged 17% in 2008 and 27% in 2009, according to the Newspaper Association of America.

Read the rest.

We’re sure the actual figure is at least 200 higher, given that we’ve featured several layoffs that didn’t appear on Smith’s excellent blog.

Layoffs coming in Seattle

The upcoming cuts reported by Todd Bishop of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer will be some of 2012′s first newsroom bloodshed:

The Seattle Times will post a record loss this year, topping $12 million, and job cuts are inevitable, the president of the newspaper’s parent company told employees this week.

In a memo to the paper’s staff, Seattle Times Co. President Carolyn Kelly outlined a long list of cuts to be made as a result of the financial condition: reductions ranging from equipment purchases and security staffing to corporate philanthropy and the number of pages in the Sunday paper.

“I wish I could say making these painful cuts will get us to where we need to be. It won’t,” Kelly wrote in the memo, dated Monday. “There are more cuts to come. Sadly, they will inevitably involve staff reductions.”

Kelly wrote that the company doesn’t yet know how many jobs will be cut or where the cuts will be made. The company hopes to notify the affected employees by early February, she wrote.

Read the rest.

Layoffs by another name at the nation’s leading paper

When publishers don’t want to admit they’re laying off people, they offer buyouts, cash payments based on years of service designed to entice folks at the end of their careers or eager to jump ship for other reasons.

The New York Times did just that, and Foster Kamer reported the outcome for the New York Observer Monday:

Over the weekend, the New York Times’ ‘Sports of the Times’ columnist George Vecsey surprised regular readers with his Saturday column this week, which he used to announce a change in his schedule: “it is time to step back (not using the R-word) and write for the paper occasionally.”

Mr. Vecsey was one of several Times veterans who signed off on the latest round of buyout packages recently offered to the paper’s staffers, many of whom were publicly mourned on Twitter by Times staffers (“Some really good people leaving @nytimes with the latest round of voluntary buyouts. Paper will Continue reading

Quote of the day: The Bay Area ‘news desert’


In an essay posted by the website of the Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy, journalist Tom Stites writes of the emergence of “news deserts” as the result of the ongoing devastation of community-based journalism, a phenomenon we’ve been tracking in our “Blood on the Newsroom Floor” series.

One example he cites of an emerging news desert is one frequently featured in our posts here at esnl, the unending rounds of downsizing at the Bay Area News Group [previously], which controls most of the newspaper circulation in the San Francisco Bay Area:

The Bay Area News Group, which had been 13 dailies published by the Denver-based MediaNews chain, last month cut 34 newsroom positions across the group and combined five of its titles into two; in total, more than 100 employees lost their jobs. In one stroke, three papers died and the 10 survivors were all wounded. Readers will find the papers less reflective of their communities — they’ll have local news sections and most will have familiar nameplates, but their general news, sports, and comics pages will be more uniform. And, with the shrunken staff, original community reporting, which has been drying up for years as newspapers laid off reporters, will become even more parched.

Eric Newton, now senior advisor to the president of the Knight Foundation, was managing editor of The Oakland Tribune 20 years ago. In a posting to the Knight Blog, he recalled that he’d supervised a staff of 130 full-time journalists; after years of attrition the newsroom was home to only a dozen reporters — and this was before the newest cutbacks.

Read the rest.

Stites is the creator of the Banyan Project, which is exploring new ways to provide communities with the news lost as papers downsize and vanish.

Blood on the newsroom floor: Carnage galore


And today’s report is another coast-to-coast edition, starting with layoffs right across the Bay in San Francisco.

Surprise, surprise: Layoffs at S.F. Examiner

Looks like we had this one figured right.

From Erin Sherbert of SF Weekly:

As expected, the San Francisco Examiner’s new owners trimmed its newsroom yesterday afternoon, laying off half the copy desk as well as other editorial staff.

We called Todd Vogt, publisher and president of the Ex, who told us layoff notices went out yesterday. However, he would not confirm who lost their jobs or how many positions are being cut.

However, inside sources at the Ex told us that at least seven editorial positions — likely more — were cut, the bulk of them coming from the copy desk.

Read the rest.

And job cuts in San Diego

Though not at an ink-and-paper newsroom.

From Kevin Roderick of LA Observed:

Voice of San Diego, now seven years old, has been Southern California’s best, most accomplished example of innovation in non-traditional news media. But today the site laid off three journalists and said the budget is going down, not up. From the editor’s note:

Today was a difficult day of change for voiceofsandiego.org.

Last year, we raised more than $1.1 million and drew up a budget for 2011 at $1.2 million. We’re projecting lower revenue for the coming year and set the budget at $1 million.

There’s no one cause for the change. No major donor has dropped out. Our sponsorships are consistent and our membership is growing rapidly. But in the past, we’ve relied on grants from national foundations to make up a large part of our funding and we can’t be sure they’ll be there for us again. We’re in the process of building a thriving membership program to reduce our reliance on foundations, but we need time to fully establish a diverse donor base. Quite simply, like many of the agencies we cover and many families across San Diego, we have to be realistic about our prospects for the New Year.

In reducing our expenses, we prioritized what we feel we can do best as well as what our readers have told us is important to them. As a result, we will focus our resources on having a greater impact through a full investigative reporting team and a daily engagement and analysis team focusing on politics, public affairs, education and the arts.

And a big resignation in Smogville

The Los Angeles Times has lost yet another editor, and just like his three immediate predecessors, the vanishing act comes in advance of yet more newsroom cuts.

From Lucas Shaw of The Wrap:

The Los Angeles Times was rocked by more turmoil Tuesday when editor Russ Stanton resigned in advance of another round of cutbacks.

Stanton, whose last day is Dec. 23, has presided over a tumultuous period of near-continuous layoffs since becoming editor in 2008. He is the fourth editor in a row – after John Carroll, Dean Baquet and James O’Shea – to leave amid demands for cuts.

“It’s kind of a tradition –  a sad tradition — but it’s definitely the case. Budget cuts, staff cuts, they take only so many staff cuts and it’s time to go,” one individual said in reference to the succession of editors who gave up on the place. (O’Shea then wrote a scathing tell-all about the Times and Tribune culture, “The Deal From Hell.”)

During his tenure as editor, Stanton’s staff shrank from 900 to about 550, with veteran columnists like Mark Heisler and Tim Rutten among the recent departures. New cuts are on the horizon, with 12 to 20 staffers to be laid off sometime after the first of the year, according to one individual with knowledge of the situation. Deeper cuts may well follow after the final numbers for 2011 are in.

Davan Maharaj, managing editor for news since May 2008, will replace Stanton, becoming the latest to try and steward the paper as it seeks to turn around falling revenue.

Read the rest.

And another digital newsroom pared

This time it’s the Center for Public Integrity, based in D.C..

From Alicia Shepard of Media Wire:

The Center for Public Integrity laid off staff [this week] to try to compensate for a $2 million budget shortfall.

Ten positions were eliminated, and five people lost their jobs with Continue reading

Blood on the newsroom floor: More bodies


Lots more to report on the ongoing decimation of the American newspaper.

All the announced layoffs are on the eastern side of the Rockies, but a just-announced bankruptcy filing will likely mean more jobs lost in California.

Colorado Springs journos get the ax

There is a California connection to our first layoff story. The paper in question is owned by Freedom Communications, a chain based in Irvine.

From the Denver Post:

The Colorado Springs Gazette confirmed on its website Thursday that editor Jeff Thomas was resigning at the end of the year. Carmen Boles, currently senior director of interactive content and audience development has been named director of content.

The Gazette said the moves were part of a reorganization and digital-first initiative.

A person familiar with the move told The Post about a dozen employees — several from the newsroom — were laid off . Others said Thomas resigned in face of the layoffs, which took several of his top managers.

>snip<

The Gazettes’ website story said the moves were all made to better connect with readers and to better use social media. Other than Thomas, no staff departures were mentioned.

>snip<

The Colorado Springs Independent reported that several affected staffers were escorted from the building prior to the layoff announcement.

Read the rest.

“Escorted out”? Well, that’s one way of “connecting.”

There’s gotta be a country song for it

Our next tale of newsroom woe comes from Memphis, where an nine employees are waiting for the chop.

From the Memphis Business Journal:

More layoffs are coming at The Commercial Appeal, according to a letter written to Memphis Newspaper Guild members by guild president Wayne Risher.

Memphis Flyer published a copy of the letter from Risher, which details some of the layoff plans. Nine guild-covered employees will be terminated, according to the letter, including one in editorial, two in accounting, two in online services, one in advertising and three in operations.

The jobs will be lost by Dec. 20 and are being eliminated to “cut expenses and achieve efficiencies in the business,” according to the letter.

Read the rest.

More layoffs coming in Chicago

Not the Tribune, which is run by Berkeley’s biggest privtae sector landlaord, Sam Zell, but the Sun-Times.

From Crain’s Chicago Business:

Sun-Times Media Holdings LLC, which owns the Chicago Sun-Times and other suburban newspapers, is cutting workers in another round of reductions aimed at slashing costs as the company finishes its move to a centralized editorial and billing system.

Sun-Times CEO Jeremy Halbreich confirmed that some editorial workers and possibly other employees are losing their jobs, but he declined to say how many. This is the “final piece” of the 18 months of reductions, he said. He declined to say whether all employees had been notified at this point.

“It takes awhile to implement everything onto this new centralized platform,” Mr. Halbreich said.

There were three employees cut at the Sun-Times, a photographer, a graphics artist and a feature writer, said Dave Roeder, who is treasurer of the Newspaper Guild of Chicago, which represents some of the company’s editorial workers. He wasn’t sure how many were cut across the company. Mr. Halbreich also declined to say how many employees the company now has.

Read the rest.

More job cuts coming in Florida

How many and precisely when may be uncertain, but they’re coming in Tampa Bay.

From Eric Deggans of the Tampa Bay Times:

For several weeks, staffers at the Tampa Tribune and WFLA-Ch. 8 have been buzzing about rumors of impending new layoffs at the local outlets owned by Richmond, Va.-based Media General.

Last week, emails and buzz indicated layoffs might come Monday. Now, some staffers fear job reductions could come early Continue reading

Blood on the newsroom floor: Chops and cuts


Lots of bad news for the Fourth Estate today, and here it is. . .

Ominous major cuts in CNN newsroom

The reason we apply the adjective in the latest bad news from America’s number two cable news network? It hints at worse to come.

From Michael Zhang of PetaPixel, writing Tuesday:

Roughly 50 staffers at CNN were given pink slips today, including nearly a dozen photojournalists. In an email to the staff, Senior VP Jack Womack cited the accessibility of cameras and the growth of citizen journalism as reasons for the terminations:

We also spent a great deal of time analyzing how we utilize and deploy photojournalists across all of our locations in the U.S. [...] We looked at the impact of user-generated content and social media, CNN iReporters and of course our affiliate contributions in breaking news. Consumer and pro-sumer technologies are simpler and more accessible. Small cameras are now high broadcast quality. More of this technology is in the hands of more people. After completing this analysis, CNN determined that some photojournalists will be departing the company.

CNN’s citizen journalism initiative, iReport, has proved extremely valuable as a source of imagery during things like disasters and protests. However, it has also received criticism for not paying for submitted photos — even those that are subsequently broadcast worldwide.

The warning comes in that last line. Why should a corporation pay for something they can get for free, and in a media-fixated culture such as ours, simply getting a major news outlet to air your photos is a major ego boost.

There’s also another, deeper current at play. Years ago The Best Newspaper Photographer We Ever Knew predicted that “the day will come cameras get so sophisticated that they don’t need us any more.”

Looks like that day is today.

The final word on the Providence layoffs

We noted earlier that layoffs were coming at the Rhode Island’s leading paper. Now the numbers are in.

From Scott MacKay of NPR:

Tough economic times continue to take a toll at the Providence Journal, the state’s largest newspaper. Management is looking for eight workers – split between advertising and the newsroom – to take buyouts and leave the ProJo. If the company does not get the eight buyouts, layoffs would ensue, according to John Hill, president of the Providence Newspaper Guild, the union representing newspaper journalists, porters and advertising employees.

If the company doesn’t get the buyouts, the eight positions targeted for layoffs include two inside advertising representatives, two outside sales representatives, one reporter, one copy editor, one photographer and one editorial assistant, Hill said.

Under terms of the guild contract, layoffs would be done by seniority, with younger and less experienced employees being the first to go. The buyouts are not generous by historic ProJo standards. Employees would get 1.25 weeks of pay for every year they have worked at the paper, up to a maximum of 10 weeks pay.

Read the rest.

And the final word on Denver Post layoffs

We always had a soft spot for the Denver Post, the go-to paper of our teenage years.

We noted earlier that layoffs were coming to the paper, and now the final tally is in, reported by Michael Roberts of Westword:

At last, we’ve got the complete list of Denver Post employees who have or will be leaving the paper after accepting a buyout offer: nineteen staffers from various departments, including editors, reporters and photographers. Perhaps most surprising: John Moore, the paper’s theater critic and online dynamo who just was named best arts blogger at the Westword Web Awards.

>snip<

To put it mildly, the Post will be losing an enormous amount of institutional knowledge as a result of these moves, from every corner of the editorial department — from transportation expert [Jeff] Lieb to [Jeanette] Chavez, the managing editor/administration. Moreover, the number of people who took the deal — including folks like [Jim] Carr, who’s only been at the paper for eight years, and [John] Moore, who’s nowhere close to retirement age — suggests that staffers don’t expect another buyout offer in the future. If additional belt-tightening is required, most people believe layoffs will be the first option, not the last.

Read the rest.

But the most troubling Post layoff reflects the ongoing destruction of a venerable American institution, the editorial cartoon. Back in th days we were Post readers, the paper was home to two of the greatest editorial cartoonist of the 20th  Century, Paul Conrad and Pat Oliphant.

As of today, the Post doesn’t even have a staff cartoonist.

From Michael Cavna ov the Washington Post:

Today is the day that Mike Keefe flicks off his newsroom drafting lamp for the last time and departs the Denver Post after nearly a four-decade run. Just months after accepting the Pulitzer Prize, Keefe also now accepts his paper’s buyout offer — leaving the Mile High air thinner by yet one more daily cartooning voice.

It is hard for the whooshing vacuum of so many Colorado exits not to leave us somewhat winded.

Keefe’s departure comes just weeks after Boulder Camera political cartoonist John Sherffius announced plans to leave the paper for a career in graphic design.

As staff artists go, their goodbyes are perhaps that area’s most prominent since 2009, when the Rocky Mountain News folded. Political cartoonist Ed Stein and sports editorial cartoonist Drew Litton were landmarks on the city’s newspaper landscape before both losing their longtime Rocky perches.

Read the rest.

When papers don’t chop, they cut

Two alternatives to layoffs — often combined — are benefit reductions and pay directly, either through salary reductions or through forced unpaid Continue reading

Blood on the newsroom floor: A paper dies


Reader Luce Kanon tips us to the latest California newspaper closing, this time in the state’s far north, where a paper owned by MediaNews, the Denver-based chain which controls the largest share of California’s newspaper circulation, is calling it quits.

No word yet on how many jobs will be lost.

From Thadeus Greenson of the Eureka Times Standard, which is also ceasing print publication of its Monday edition, a practice already implemented here in the San Francisco Bay Area by some of MedNews’s papers:

The Humboldt Beacon newspaper — a local institution that has informed the Eel River Valley for more than a century — will cease publication next month, Times-Standard Publisher Dave Kuta announced Monday. The Beacon’s last issue will be Dec. 8.

The Times-Standard will also cease publication of its Monday print edition after Jan. 2. The two cost-saving moves will be accompanied by the layoffs of a Times-Standard photographer and the Humboldt Beacon editor.

”None of these decisions were made easily,” Kuta said in a company-wide memo announcing the decision to staff Monday afternoon.

”The next few weeks will be difficult ones, but I’m confident we will be able to move forward in a stronger position to face the challenges ahead.”

Kuta cited a down economy that has led to sagging advertising revenue and increased costs associated with production and distribution as reasons for the decisions, which he said were made over the last month.

Both the Times-Standard and the weekly Humboldt Beacon are owned by Denver, Colo., based MediaNews Group, a privately-owned company founded in 1983 by William Dean Singleton that operates more than 55 daily newspapers in 11 states with a combined daily circulation of approximately 2.5 million.

>snip<

Kuta said Monday’s decision was made locally and not handed down by MediaNews Group.

Read the rest.

The Humboldt Herald news blog adds more:

When the Humboldt Herald started in the spring of 2006, a rich local media environment appeared to be thriving — but then again, so did the housing market. Eureka had two newspapers, the T-S and Rob Arkley’s Eureka Reporter.  Competition gave the T-S a badly needed kick in the keester, and for a while there seemed to be reporters on every little story.

But the Reporter was supported almost entirely by Arkley’s pocket book and therefore doomed to fail. ER reporters have gone back to bar tending or left the area in search of journalism jobs.

Is the loss of the Beacon and the Monday Times-Standard another step toward total annihilation of newspapers as we know them? It seems unlikely that these changes will right the listing boat.

Or perhaps these cutbacks in addition to the T-S paywall will spare us from a paperless future. But don’t hold your breath.

Blood on the newsroom floor: Lots of blood


We’ll start out north of the border where a major bloodbath has just been announced, then head south for another major hemorrhage, a lesser cutback, a newspaper closing, and allegations of a covert layoff of minorities at one of America’s major papers.

And there’s more.

Massive job cuts at Canadian papers

That works out to hundreds of jobs at Canada’s dominant newspaper chain.

From The Canadian Press via Global BC:

Media conglomerate Quebecor Inc. is eliminating 400 jobs from its far-flung Sun Media division, Canada’s biggest newspaper publisher with dailies and weeklies across the country, a union official said Monday.

It was on Twitter where talk first emerged that the Montreal-based multimedia giant would be cutting at Sun Media, which has dozens of papers, free commuter publications and numerous weeklies in Ontario, Quebec and other provinces.

Paul Morse — president of the Southern Ontario Newsmedia Guild, which represents workers at the Toronto Sun as well as several other Quebecor newspapers — said the cuts follow a round of buyouts at the Toronto Sun last week.

Morse said about 400 jobs are on the block, roughly half of which are to be eliminated through buyouts. About 100 employees will be laid off and another 100 or so positions will be done away with through attrition, he added.

Read the rest.

Hard numbers emerge on Michigan layoffs

We noted earlier that at least 400 jobs could be chopped at at a newly merged newspaper corporation that incorporates a large number of Michigan papers, and now the hard numbers are in.

From Al Jones of the Kalamazoo Gazette:

As part of the launch of a new media company, the Michigan-based Booth Newspapers and MLive.com have issued about 550 layoff notices to employees statewide, according to newly released state employment information.

Sixty-day layoff notices, reported as required by federal law, were issued Nov. 2 to 146 employees at The Grand Rapids Press, 91 at The Flint Journal, 77 at the Kalamazoo Gazette, 71 at The Bay City Times, 71 at The Jackson Citizen Patriot, 55 at Booth Michigan, 20 at Valley Publishing and 12 at The Saginaw News.

The changes involve the launch of two new companies and both are hiring: MLive Media Group and Advanced Central Services Michigan, MLive Media Group President Dan Gaydou said.

Read the rest.

More from Matt Gryczan of Crain’s Detroit Business:

Dan Gaydou, publisher of Booth Newspapers and president of MLive Media, said in an email that the number is not “representative of the actual number of employees who will or will not continue with one of the new companies.”

All would be eligible to apply for new jobs with MLive Media and Advance, he wrote, and noted that more than 200 jobs have been posted to mlivemediagroup.com, although there will be fewer jobs overall than before.

Read the rest.

And big cuts coming in Norfolk, Virginia

That’s fifty jobs in all, writes Philip Walzer, who works for the affected paper, Norfolk’s Virginian-Pilot:

Pilot Media, which includes The Virginian-Pilot, is cutting more than 50 jobs, reducing its workforce to under 870. The cuts are coming from layoffs, early retirements and the elimination of open positions, said Maurice Jones, The Pilot’s publisher.

It is the fourth round of layoffs at the newspaper company since late 2008. Most of the layoffs and other job reductions will occur by the end of the year, Jones said.

“We’re not in any crisis,” he said Monday. “But we are looking forward at what we think is going to be an economic climate that’s not going to give us a lot of help through at least next year.”

Read the rest.

And another newspaper bites the dust

This time, it’s in Florida.

From Mark I. Johnson of the Daytona Beach, Florida, News-Journal:

The Observer newspaper in Southeast Volusia did not publish its Thursday edition, and company executives said it would take a “miracle” for the weekly community newspaper to continue operations.

“The economy is so, so bad, and the economy is not going to get Continue reading

Blood on the newsroom floor: Massive job losses


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.

>snip<

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

Blood on the Newsroom Floor: And lots of it, too


First, two items that reflect on major changes underway at California newspapers, both likely to lead to more layoffs, then a look at the death of a newspaper in Florida, jobs cuts in the Big Apple, Connecticut, and Michigan, plus an also-ran in the Headline of the day competition.

Another California real estate baron publisher?

Sam Zell, one of the nation’s largest landlords, became a media mogul when he took of the Tribune Corp., publishers of papers that include the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune. [He’s also Berkeley’s biggest private sector landlord, too.]

After Zell’s takeover, job cuts followed in Los Angeles.

Now another real estate tycoon is eying a California paper, this one already owned by investment bankers.

From FishbowlLA’s Newspaper Deathwatch:

Former San Diego Union-Tribune editor David Ogul tweets that real estate developer and Prop 8 backer Douglas Manchester making serious motions to buy the U-T. This certainly seems to confirm the suspicions of CounterPunch’s Frank Green, who wrote back in October that Manchester was sniffing around the paper. Counterpunch and sources we spoke with say Manchester is interested in the paper’s real estate. Which, at this point, is probably far more valuable as a potential redevelopment site than the paper itself. Could this be the beginning of the end for the Union-Tribune?

Whatever the outcome, we can be sure it doesn’t bode well for San Diego’s ink-stained wretches, nor for the community dependent on their reporting about critical events that impact their lives.

MediaNews orders more SoCal consolidation

The Denver-based MediaNews chain, which controls the largest share of newspaper circulation in California, has been relentlessly hacking away at its papers in the Northern California Bay Area News Group [BANG], invariably following up with similar moves at its Southern California coutnerpart, the Los Angeles News Group [LANG].

The name of the game for MediaNews is consolidation, stripping papers of their community context while effectively merging them into single entities dubbed “newsblobs” by Southern California journalist Gary Scott.

After the latest round of BANG consolidations, new moves are afoot at LANG, as Kevin Roderick reports for LA Observed:

When Daily News editor Carolina Garcia was named editor last month over the Daily Breeze and Press-Telegram as well, it seemed pretty clear more moves were coming. Now they have come. Today’s memo from Garcia stresses that the three papers will retain their own identities, but there will be key senior editors who oversee all three papers. In most cases, it’s someone at the Daily News who gets elevated to manage the other papers’ staffs too. For instance, the DN’s Mariel Garza becomes the senior editor over the opinion pages that all three papers will run. Also: Harrison Sheppard becomes city editor of the Daily News and Kerry Cavanaugh becomes assistant city editor.

Read the rest, including the relevant memo.

The imminent death of a Florida paper

Bad news for folks in High Springs Florida and vicinity who’ve depended on the North Florida Herald for their weekly dose of news.

According to the Gainesville Sun:

The weekly newspaper, known as the High Springs Herald until 2009, had been in print since 1952. It has a print circulation of 3,300 and an average of 2,000 unique daily visitors to its website, covering news in High Springs, Alachua, Newberry, Fort White and Jonesville in Alachua, Columbia and Gilchrist counties.

Here’s the poignant announcement of the impending demise of a 53-year-old publication:

This may be the final issue of The North Florida Herald, the one that is in the stands now.

The following is a column written by North Florida Herald editor and publisher Ronald Dupont Jr.

***

As the publisher of The North Florida Herald, this is something I never thought I would write.

Unless a financial angel comes through our doors in the next two days, The Herald will close. No issue will be published this week, and without a financial angel, no issue will be published again.

We need $120,000 to survive until December of 2012. If we could survive to then, we would have published through the very profitable months of election advertising.

Even better, maybe the economy will have started changing by then and we would be back on our feet.

That is my hope.

It’s hard to believe that High Springs elections are next week and that The Herald will not be covering them for the first time since 1952. The Herald is the second oldest operating business in town, with only Jim Douglas Sales and Service having operated longer.

I keep wondering how people will learn about what their city leaders are doing in Alachua, Newberry, High Springs and Fort White. How will people learn of proposed laws, tax rate increases, donations, fee changes, you name it?

Who will tell the people?

Read the rest.

New York Daily News slashes jobs

The Daily News isn’t exactly a shining exemplar of the best ideals of the Fourth Estate, but at least it’s been an alternative to the great grey news machine that is the New York Times.

As a so-called subway tabloid, the paper depends on splashy, well, trashy, headlines to catch the eyes of readers as the scurry to catch their morning rides. But it’s a newspaper, and as such we share the agony of the ten folks who are losing their jobs.

From the New York Post’s Keith J. Kelly:

In the latest turmoil to rattle the Daily News, about 10 reporters were axed today as the Mort Zuckerman-owned paper tries to stanch the flow of red ink.

Zuckerman invested $150 million in new four-color presses in New Continue reading

Blood on the Newsroom Floor: Smogville layoffs


Layoffs, all from the West Coast. . .

The BANG layoff’s other edge

Unnoticed in the news about the latest layoffs at the MediaNews-owned [San Francisco] Bay Area Newsgroup is a critical fact: That while the 36 news staff reductions were six fewer than hinted at the Oakland Tribune, Contra Costa Times, and other daily and almost-daily news products [no more paper Monday papers for many subscribers (online only)], the selective harvest included two of the key figures in the BANG unit of the Media Workers Guild, which had fought hard for its members during previous layoff rounds.

Surely that’s just a coincidence, right?

The only good news was that the chain cut six fewer jobs than previously indicated, with 34 journalists getting the boot instead of 40.

More layoffs coming at the L.A. Times

One of two of the nation’s top ten metropolitan dailies owned by Sam Zell, one of the nations leading apartment landlords as well as Berkeley’s biggest, the Los Angeles Times once boasted a circulation of more than a million every weekeday, and many more on Sunday, has fared badly under Zell’s tenure.

Zell managed of finance his purchase on the backs of its workers, and layoffs followed.

Now, according to the well-informed Kevin Roderick of L.A. Observed, more are coming:

According to a couple of independent newsroom sources, Los Angeles Times editor Russ Stanton called meetings on Wednesday to inform affected people that the design, news operations and web operations staffs would be combined into one department, along with at least some of the copy editors. The merging would take place by the end of January and lead to 10-20 layoffs, the sources say. One of the sources said there’s also new talk of combining sections to save money.

Not reporters, but newspaper people still

While our primary concern has been ongoing layoffs of working reporters, whose work is essential to a functioning democracy, it’s also important to consider that other folks in the newspaper trade are losing work as well.

From Willamette Week’s Hannah Hoffman, bad news for Portland newspaper folk:

The Oregonian laid off about 20 business-side employees Tuesday, adding to about 38 employees the paper let go in June.

Publisher N. Christian Anderson III confirmed to WW that the paper had announced the layoffs. He wouldn’t confirm the exact number but said none of the cuts came from the newsroom staff, and that the cuts were part of the paper’s overall cost-saving strategy. Sources at the daily said executives didn’t rule out more layoffs in the future.

The Oregonian, which once pledged to its employees they would never be laid off for economic reasons, has axed more than 100 employees since 2009. In March of that year, the paper laid off 33 part-time employees. In February 2010, the paper laid off 37 full-time workers, most from the newsroom.

Read the rest.

Blood on the newsroom Floor: Layoffs abound


UPDATE: After the jump.

Today’s wrapup starts close to home with the final body count for BANG, the MediaNews-owned Bay Area News Group, the outfit which is turning what were once 12 local newspapers into an entity blogger Gary Scott has dubbed a newsblob.

BANG cuts 34 newsroom jobs

In addition to slashing jobs, the company is also closing their printing plant in Walnut Creek, and transferring all printing to San Jose.

From what we’ve learned, the final result of the latest round of reconstruction will result in what amounts to a single paper, though the mastheads of most of the locals remain, a reversal of their earlier plan.

From El Cerrito Patch:

The Bay Area News Group, which publishes the El Cerrito Journal, as well as Walnut Creek-based Contra Costa Times, the Oakland Tribune and daily newspapers serving cities throughout the East Bay, cut 34 newsroom positions Tuesday to reduce costs as it attempts to shore up its online presence.

Cuts included editor of the El Cerrito Journal and Berkeley Voice, David Boitano, and education reporter Shelly Meron who covered El Cerrito and Kensington schools as part of her beat.

Ten of the positions were via voluntary resignations; the rest were layoffs. Staff members were notified on Tuesday morning, according to employees who did not wish to be named.

>snip<

Some of the staff members who were laid off or who volunteered to leave, have worked for various divisions of the news group for as long as 30 years.

They include David Newhouse, longtime sportswriter and columnist for the Oakland Tribune, and Steve Waterhouse, editor of the (Fremont) Argus and the (Hayward) Daily Review. Also laid off were Barry Caine, former movie critic for the Oakland Tribune and an entertainment editor for the Contra Costa Times.

Laid off employees include reporters, newsroom clerical staff members, photographers and copy editors.

Read the rest.

And the jobs are slashed in Riverside

Gary Scott, who blogs at the papers got smaller, reports layoffs were also held at the Riverside Press-Enterprise, which is part of the A. H. Belo Corporation:

The Press-Enterprise in Riverside on Tuesday cut several newsroom staffers Tuesday. At least one of the names I was originally given turned out to be incorrect, so I’ve removed the information from this post until I can confirm exactly who was laid off.

And in Connecticut, bad news in Norwich

Via New London’s The Day:

The Bulletin announced the layoffs of seven newsroom employees in today’s edition.

The cuts include a production editor, sports staffer, news reporter, copy editor and two photographers.

Jim Konrad, executive editor, said the cuts were necessitated by “the financial strains at the corporate and site level.”

The Bulletin is owned by GateHouse Media Inc., which on Tuesday announced that it had lost $5 million last quarter.

Interesting sidenote: The Bulletin pulled its own story [though it still shows up on Google], leaving only its own variant of the 404 message, and there’s no trace of the tale on their website.

And the mayhem in Manchester

From Rachel Kaufman on of Media Jobs Daily:

The largest newspaper in New Hampshire is going to get a little smaller in the days to come.

After the Manchester News Guild unanimously rejected the Union-Leader’s proposal to cut pay by 10 percent, cut sick time and increase the workweek, the newspaper says it must achieve cost savings through other means: layoffs.

The Union-Leader will cut six positions, including three senior reporters, sometime in early November, reports NHPR— New Hampshire public radio. The 10 percent pay cut will also take effect anyway.

This comes two years after staff already accepted a double-digit pay cut, NHPR says. It leaves workers making 22% less than they did in 2008.

Tax documents show, NHPR reports, that the paper’s president and publisher, Joe McQuaid, took a pay cut in 2009.

But last year, he took in more than he did pre-cut.

Not jobs, but bad numbers just the same

Way back in the early Holocene when esnl reported for the San Monica Evening Outlook, we interviewed then-Los Angeles Times publisher Otis Chandler, whose dream was to publish America’s largest paper.

At the time, he was well on the way, and by 1990, the Times was the country’s leading metropolitan daily, with a weekday circulation of 1,225,189 and 1,514,096 on Sundays.

But no more.

After Otis retired, the paper headed rapidly downhill, thanks in part to the former General Mills executive brought in to replace him, and then by a disastrous takeover by real estate mogul Sam Zell [who’s also Berkeley largest private landlord].

Now the latest grim news from Kevin Roderick of L.A. Observed:

The daily circulation of the printed Los Angeles Times was 572,998 in the latest audited numbers released [Tuesday]. It used to be well over Continue reading

Blood on the newsroom floor: Consolidation


The name of the game in print these days is consolidation, detaching editors from reporters by bringing them all to a central location, thereby ensuring that stories are edited even more poorly because the folks who edit don’t live in the same communities as the reporters and miss all manner of critical details and lack any institutional knowledge of people and place.

Two major media outfits are jumping on the bandwagon.

Cox makes itself more irrelevant

Cox Media owns television and radio stations in addition to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Austin American-Statesman, Dayton Daily News, Journal News in  Hamilton, Ohio, Middletown Journal in Ohio, Palm Beach Daily News, Palm Beach Post, and the Springfield, Ohio, News-Sun.

Following in the footsteps of MediaNews, California’s largest newspaper publisher, Cox is consolidating its editing functions, and jobs are falling by the wayside.

From Rachel Kaufman of Media Jobs Daily:

Cox Media is combining the copy desks of its four major dailies, which will result in the loss of at least 30 jobs and the relocation of many more people, multiple sources are reporting.

The copy editing and design functions for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Austin American Statesman, Dayton Daily News, and the Palm Beach Post will all be moving to two central locations, one in Dayton, Oh., and the other in Palm Beach, Fla.

All Cox is saying so far is that “in some cases, positions will be eliminated,” according to a memo obtained by Charles Apple. But in other cases, the company says, new positions will be created—and employees have first shot at those openings.

According to Creative Loafing, an estimated 30 jobs in Atlanta will be cut. We’re not sure how many jobs in Austin might also disappear.

And Reuters delocalizes, too

Thomson Retuers, operators of one of the world’s leading wire services, is moving its Washington, D.C.,  photo desk to Toronto, and cutting the staff in half.

From the Newspaper Guild of New York:

Guild members on the Washington photo staff are famous throughout Reuters for shooting, editing and transmitting pictures that take the pulse of the U.S. capital. But in a boneheaded play, Thomson Reuters plans to move the Americas photo desk to Toronto, cutting the size of the Washington operation from eight to four — and of the surviving four, three would be needed for full-time coverage of the White House, Capitol Hill, Treasury, State and the Pentagon.

Behind these photographs, Washington has a world-class photo editing and planning operation that effectively arranges photo coverage of sports, politics, natural disasters and the whole range of news pictures across North America. Other Thomson Reuters photo desks seek advice from the Washington operation because of its experienced editors and photographers. They’re the very best, and our clients know and appreciate it.

So, the smart thing for management to do would be to keep this operation up and running, add resources and support its award-winning Washington-based talent. But in a boneheaded play, TR managers plan to move the Americas photo desk to Toronto, cutting the size of the Washington operation from eight to four – and of the surviving four, three would be needed for full-time coverage of the White House, Capitol Hill, the Treasury Department, State Department and the Pentagon. There’s no clear roadmap for who would work the irregular hours this desk requires to maintain its high standards.

In Bizarro World logic, this short-sighted, ill-conceived cutback is actually being sold as an expansion of U.S. coverage. But it would result in the loss of a two-time “Journalist of the Year” award-winner and a highly-respected staff photographer – just as our 2012 presidential election coverage is gathering steam and as our Reuters America clients are clamoring for more pictures.

Read the rest.

Not newspapers, but downsizing just the same

Clear Channel is the monster of radio, and led the way in delocalizing news and downsizing reporters.

And now they’re downsizing again.

From Jennifer Dodd of KSAT 12 News in San Antonio:

San Antonio -based Clear Channel Media has begun layoffs in what they’re calling a “regional market strategy shift.”

Several sources confirmed the media conglomerate laid off several hundreds employees nationwide on Wednesday.

A few dozen of those were corporate employees based in San Antonio.

In August, Clear Channel released an 8-percent, second-quarter revenue growth.

Clear Channel spokesperson Wendy Goldberg said the layoffs have nothing to do with cutting costs, but instead are a shift in focus to platforms such as iHeartRadio.

Goldberg said unfortunately jobs will be eliminated, some on-air talent, some behind the scenes.

Read the rest.

BANG consolidation plan, layoffs, go bust


UPDATE: Some titles will be combined, as George Avalos reports for the Oakland Tribune:

The Oakland Tribune, Contra Costa Times and several other East Bay newspapers will retain their own mastheads, and the Tribune will open two new community media laboratories in Oakland, executives of the papers’ parent company announced Thursday.

The Bay Area News Group also said it will halt home delivery on Mondays of the Oakland Tribune, The Argus and the Hayward Daily Review, starting sometime in November. The Monday papers will still be available at retail outlets, newsracks and other locations, and there will also be electronic versions.

BANG had previously planned to combine its East Bay papers into two mastheads, but reconsidered the move based on feedback from the community. The only newspapers whose mastheads will be combined are the Valley Times, Tri-Valley Herald and San Joaquin Herald, and the Oakland Tribune and the Alameda Times Star. The Valley Times, Tri-Valley Herald and San Joaquin Herald will be renamed the Tri-Valley Times. The Alameda Times Star will become part of the Oakland Tribune.

As part of Thursday’s announcement, the company also said the San Mateo County Times would retain its own masthead, rather than become part of the San Jose Mercury News.

>snip<

The number of newsroom job cuts in the East Bay, though, will be scaled back. Initially, BANG had envisioned about 40 layoffs in the 230-employee newsroom. The news group now is looking at staff cuts of about 25, along with several voluntary resignations, for a total reduction of about 14 percent of the newsroom.

The plan to consolidate all of MediaNews’s newspapers along the eastern shore of San Francisco Bay under two mastheads is dead, we’re told, as are most of the previously announced 120 layoffs.

So the Oakland Tribune will live on, as will the Contra Costa Times and most, but not all, of the existing titles [updated].

We’re glad MediaNews changed their minds and reversed one of the dumbest moves ever made by a newspaper chain.

UPDATE: We can’t help but wonder if the move wasn’t taken after somone took to heart the words of Jeff DeBalko, financial chief of Bay Area News Group [MediaNews's subdivision in the San Francisco Bay Area], posted on his blog last week after he quit the outfit:

My 71-year-old mother called me a while back and told me that she was calling to cancel her local paper (one of ours). When I asked why, she said, ‘They keep raising the rates on me. I don’t care about the money so much but there is nothing in the paper any more about my local community. They used to write about people I know, places I know, and businesses nearby. Now there is none of that.’ Nothing speaks louder to the failure of local media than a long, slow disconnect from the communities they serve.

Blood on the newsroom floor: Papers, television


Today’s update on the downbeat news for the Fourth Estate ranges from alt-weekly woes to the drastic cuts underway in community television.

Venerable black-owned paper nears collapse

The sad news from Chicago concerns the sad plight of one of the nation’s first and oldest community newspapers serving urban African American communities.

From Rachel Kaufman MediaJobsDaily:

The Chicago Defender, one of the nation’s oldest black-owned newspapers, is “months” behind on its rent, the paper’s “greatest challenge” right now, publisher and president Michael House told the Chicago Sun-Times.

The only remaining editors on the 18-person staff, executive editor Lou Ransom and news editor Rhonda Gillespie, were shown the door last week as well as turning the paper’s only photographer into a part-time staffer and letting go an accounts receivable employee.

Read the rest.

More on the layoffs at the Village Voice chain

Hamilton Nolan of Gawker has been getting the scoops on layoffs at Village Voice Media, the folks who own the Big Apple’s leading “alternative paper” and a chain of other alt-weeklies, including the SF Weekly.

Here’s his latest:

Tipsters have told us of more than 20 editorial staffers at nearly a dozen VVM-owned papers who were laid off recently, for financial reason. It appears to be a top-down order to trim budgets everywhere. “We had company wide layoffs. Every paper had to lose a few people,” according to Seattle Weekly editor Mike Seely. So far, we’ve confirmed the following: at least one staff writer and one editor at the Houston Press; one staff writer at OC Weekly (“an economic decision in no way performance related,” according to the editor); one staff writer and a web editor at Seattle Weekly. We’ve left messages seeking confirmations of other layoffs at the Dallas Observer, LA Weekly, City Pages, Miami New Times, Phoenix New Times, Riverfront Times, and SF Weekly.

Hard times.

Update: We hear that the Broward/ Palm Beach New Times and the Miami New Times will each be losing a staff writer. We also hear that the entire chain is eliminating everyone holding the title of “Assistant Calendar Editor,” a position at some but not all VVM papers. Also, three editors and a reporter were laid off at SF Weekly, as detailed here.

Read the rest.

Why Not Occupy Newsrooms?

That’s the headline on a David Carr report in the New York Times that looks at the bloated salaries paid newspaper executives as their reward for their ruthless gutting of the Fourth Estate.

Carr singles out Gannett, the nation’s largest newspaper chain:

Almost two weeks ago, USA Today put its finger on why the Occupy Wall Street protests continued to gain traction.

“The bonus system has gone beyond a means of rewarding talent and is now Wall Street’s primary business,” the newspaper editorial stated, adding: “Institutions take huge gambles because the short-term returns are a rationale for their rich payouts. But even when the consequences of their risky behavior come back to haunt them, they still pay huge bonuses.”

Well thought and well put, but for one thing: If you were looking for bonus excess despite miserable operations, the best recent example I can think of is Gannett, which owns USA Today.

The week before the editorial ran, Craig A. Dubow resigned as Gannett’s chief executive. His short six-year tenure was, by most accounts, a disaster. Gannett’s stock price declined to about $10 a share from a high of $75 the day after he took over; the number of employees at Gannett plummeted to 32,000 from about 52,000, resulting in a remarkable diminution in journalistic boots on the ground at the 82 newspapers the company owns.

Never a standout in journalism performance, the company strip-mined its newspapers in search of earnings, leaving many communities with far less original, serious reporting.

Given that legacy, it was about time Mr. Dubow was shown the door, right? Not in the current world we live in. Not only did Mr. Dubow retire under his own power because of health reasons, he got a mash note from Marjorie Magner, a member of Gannett’s board, who said without irony that “Craig championed our consumers and their ever-changing needs for news and information.”

But the board gave him far more than undeserved plaudits. Mr. Dubow walked out the door with just under $37.1 million in retirement, health and disability benefits. That comes on top of a combined $16 million in salary and bonuses in the last two years.

Read the rest.

Ryan Chittum comments on the state of Gannett in a Columbia Journalism Review blog post on Carr’s article:

Carr isn’t reaching for his Occupy analogy here. This kind of mismanagement is at the heart of the Wall Street protests. You can certainly make a business case for needing to lay off newspaper workers the last few years. Making the case for firing hundreds of low-paid proles (and actually its tens of thousands of layoffs: Carr reports Gannett’s payroll is now 32,000, down from 52,000 in just six years) while paying yourself and your COO nearly ten million dollars apiece when the stock is down 87 percent on your watch? If you want to make it, be my guest.

These practices aren’t unique to Wall Street or to Gannett in newspaperland, as Carr makes clear, and they haven’t just popped up in the Great Recession. That’s just how business is done these days.

Read the rest.

And the same chainsaws are gutting TV news

And lest you think newsroom downsizing is restricted to the newspaper realm, consider the remarks of Craig Aron, president and CEO of Free Press, a media advocacy group, on the devastation of local television newsrooms, reported by Kari Lydersen of In These Times:

[S]tations are making deals to share reporters and editorial content to cut costs. The most extreme form of consolidation is known as a “shared services agreement,” wherein one newsroom with one staff provides content for two or more stations – which presumably in the past had their own newsrooms and staff.

So in a profession wracked by job losses, “covert consolidation” has added to the carnage. Aaron listed a sample of local broadcast jobs lost: 68 in Honolulu, 30 in Peoria, 45 in Syracuse, 24 in Salt Lake City. He told In These Times:

“That’s the point of these shady deals. Cut staffs, shave costs, all the while raking in ad dollars alongside local newscasts. This attack on working journalists, broadcast engineers, even the ad department, is the reason why, among the leading opponents of covert consolidation, are unions like the Newspaper Guild and the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians (NABET).”

Aaron added that a “smaller staff means a heavier workload, though I think the biggest problem is the stories we’re missing out on. Without journalists competing and digging up stories, political scandal or corporate corruption go completely undetected.”

Read the rest.

Of course there are jobs, but. . .

The “but” being that the work available for would-be journalists through the latest model doesn’t pay a dime. For one example, see here.