On today’s agenda: Major layoffs in two cities and the first signs of a cutbacks in a third that’s closer to home, plus the inevitable slashes at smaller publications and the death of one small newspaper chain.
One thing to note. While some of the numbers may seem small, the newsroom staffs are far smaller than just a few years ago, so the impacts will be disproportionately greater than the figures would first appear.
Chicago Tribune brings out the chopping block
The Tribune Co. Is still reeling from the $8.2 billion buyout by Sam Zell, which was funding on the backs on the workers through their Employee stock ownership plan.
Zell, who’s also Berkeley’s biggest private landlord, drove the chain into bankruptcy a year later, resulting in major cuts at its papers, including California’s leading daily, the Los Angeles Times.
This latest round of cuts follows the loss of ten newsroom staffers last month through buyouts. No word yet on any layoffs at the chain’s 23 television stations.
From Lynne Marek of Crain’s Chicago Business:
The Chicago Tribune cut about 15 editorial employees today as the media company continues to shrink its newsroom.
The employees dismissed included reporters, editors and managers, according to sources familiar with the layoffs. They follow an employee buyout last month and a round of staff reductions in July.
The paper, the biggest in the city and a unit of Chicago-based Tribune Co., is creating a leaner workforce to reduce costs and revive profits as it prepares to exit bankruptcy later this year under its new creditor-owners.
“The Chicago Tribune does not publicly discuss internal personnel matters,” company spokesman Gary Weitman said. “Like most companies, the Tribune makes decisions about staff skills and composition based on customer needs and business conditions.”
Layoffs begin today at Los Angeles Times
No idea yet how many will get the chop.
From Kevin Roderick of LA Observed:
The latest round of Los Angeles Times layoffs and other cuts began with at least one home phone call [Monday night]. Shari Roan, a health writer for the Times for 22 years, got the word that she’s on the list. She was a mainstay of the Health section that was recently eliminated.
Bad news in the City of Brotherly Love
Philadelphia’s metropolitan newspapers are on the auction block, and to sweeten the deal, layoffs are the order of the day.
From Mike Armstrong of the Philadelphia Inquirer:
Philadelphia Media Network Inc. will lay off 19 unionized workers in its three newsrooms – four full-timers and 15 part-timers – and 21 additional newsroom employees have been approved for voluntary buyouts.
The layoffs of reporters, copy editors, multimedia content producers, and others at The Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News, and Philly.com would occur March 31. Five nonunion employees from the three newsrooms, including three from The Inquirer, also were laid off, bringing the total number of jobs being lost to 45.
In a statement, PMN said the layoffs and buyouts were a response to “the unfortunate economic conditions that continue to impact” the newspaper industry.
PMN spokesman Mark Block would not discuss details of the financial condition of the company, citing its status as a privately held corporation. “The kind of revenue we have been generating has not been enough to sustain the personnel we have,” he said.
More from Maryclaire Dale of the Associated Press:
Philadelphia’s two largest newspapers will lose 40 more newsroom employees this month, prompting union leaders. . .to accuse management of bungling a tablet computer launch, censoring stories and deriding print newspapers as “legacy products.”
The losses are just the latest setback for staffers, who have gone through repeated rounds of cutbacks and might soon have their fifth owner in six years.
A group of local powerbrokers and philanthropists hopes to buy Philadelphia Media Network from the New York hedge funds that took control after a 2010 bankruptcy auction. The sale price has plummeted from $515 million in 2006 to $139 million in 2009 to perhaps less than $70 million this year.
The hedge funds installed former Newsweek.com executive Greg Osberg as publisher in late 2010. The guild attacked his leadership in a sharply worded memo Thursday.
The Phily layoffs appear to be striking hard at the papers’ minority staff.
From Richard Prince of the Maynard Institute:
The National Association of Black Journalists promptly protested the departures of Sarah J. Glover, president of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists, and sportswriter John Mitchell.
“I am not entirely sure of the racial breakdown of the members but at leastSarah J. GloverSarah J. Glover three of those laid off and one of the volunteers who left only to be spared a layoff are journalists of color,” Dan Gross, Philadelphia Daily News reporter and president of the Newspaper Guild/Communications Workers of America Local 38010, told Journal-isms by email on Thursday.
Alternative chain hacks away at journo staff
The whole notion of “alternative chain” is an oxymoron, a result of the relentless corporatization of the nation’s once free-wheeling and fiercely independent local alternatives to the corporate media of the 1960s and 1970s.
The latest round of cuts comes at the Creative Loafing chain — and how’s that for a corporate chain name?
From Rachel Kaufman of Media Jobs Daily:
Creative Loafing, the company that owns the Chicago Reader, City Paper, and Creative Loafing Atlanta, has announced cuts in staffing and pay at the three papers.
At CL Atlanta, four positions were let go. The paper is saying farewell to managing editor/digital and food critic Besha Rodell, staff writer Scott Henry, arts writer Curt Holman, and special projects director (and former managing editor) Chanté LaGon.
At the Washington City Paper, some employees had their hours reduced to part-time, but no staffers were cut. At all three papers, everyone got a 5% pay cut.
Remember the Maine [papers]; they’re gone
Another small chain bites the dust, this time in The Pine Tree State.
From Rachel Kaufman of Media Jobs Daily:
The owner of Maine newspaper publisher Village NetMedia announced Friday [9 March] that he would be ceasing operations of his four papers, effective immediately.
That means 56 people are losing their jobs, the Bangor Daily News reports. There will be no severance.
The four weekly papers and related websites that are being shuttered served Rockland (The Village Soup Gazette), Belfast (The Village Soup Journal), Bar Harbor (the Bar Harbor Times), Augusta (the Capital Weekly), and entertainment rag The Scene.
“The profound changes in the newspaper publishing business, a weak economy and our investment in new products created severe financial challenges. Over the recent months, I have worked with outside professionals to achieve a financial restructuring that would allow us to continue. These efforts failed as of 3 p.m. today, March 9, 2012. We can no longer sustain our operations,” owner Richard Anderson said in a statement.
Rhode Island papers slash away staff
Reporters in the Ocean State got the bad news last month, a layoff we missed in our last roundup.
From the Rhode Island-based Valley Breeze chain:
The owners of two area daily papers, The Times of Pawtucket and The Call of Woonsocket, are laying off a number of employees.
Multiple reporters, at least one advertising representative, and at least one photographer are said to be part of the latest cuts from RISN (Rhode Island Suburban Newspapers) Operations Inc., according to two sources. They indicated that staff first learned of the layoffs on Feb. 10, a day one employee described to The Breeze as “black Friday.”
Few employees are now working out of the first floor of the five-story Times building on Exchange Street, a property valued at nearly $1.4 million in the Pawtucket tax assessor database.
Barry Mechanic, who works as publisher of both The Times and The Call, declined to go into detail on the layoffs, though he did confirm that “a couple reporters” are being let go as part of a restructuring of the papers’ staff.
Orange County Register layoffs
Another late pickup, this time from the Golden State, where all is not happy in the home of the Magic Kingdom.™
From Kevin Roderick of LA Observed:
Yvette Cabrera, voted last year’s best OC columnist by the Orange County Press Club, was laid off today by the Register. The news is getting out via the organization CCNMA: Latino Journalists of California, where Cabrera is the president. She is “one of a handful of Latina mainstream English-language columnists in the country,” says an official with the group. A report that Cabrera contributed last year to KCET’s “SoCal Connected” on families forced to live in motels won a Gracie Award this month.
The unconfirmed report is that at least eight other Register staffers are being laid off. No names yet that I have heard.
Nine was the final body count. And if you’re looking for a horror story about the attitudes of many Californians toward journalists of color, reader the reader comments at this post about the Cabrera’s layoff.
Not a news medium, but layoffs
Looks like Oprah finally hit a financial speedbump, with her cable channel taking a major hit.
From Brian Steltzer of the New York Times:
OWN, Oprah Winfrey’s cable channel, said on Monday that it had decided to lay off 30 people in a restructuring of its operations in Los Angeles and New York.
The staff cutbacks are the latest public setback for the young channel, which is co-owned by Ms. Winfrey and Discovery Communications. The channel has suffered from executive turnover since its conception four years ago and from low ratings since its TV premiere 15 months ago. Last week, the channel canceled what was to have been one of its tent poles, “The Rosie Show,” a 7 p.m. talk show by Rosie O’Donnell.
Amid the continuing drumbeat of departures and disappointing ratings, Ms. Winfrey’s own talk show, “Oprah’s Next Chapter,” has sometimes brought in millions of viewers to the channel, proving that it could still succeed over the long term. Ms. Winfrey and Discovery executives have cautioned all along that the channel will take years to prove itself.
But good news for one ex-newsie
With all that grim news, how about a story concerning a media worker who won’t be suffering much misery after leaving his job.
Of course he was also the same guy who did create a great deal of misery for other working stiffs.
From Think Progress:
When Craig Dubow resigned as CEO of the nation’s largest newspaper conglomerate amid health problems last year, he ended a six-year stint that “was, by most accounts, a disaster.” Gannett, the parent company of the USA Today and 80 other American newspapers, had seen its revenue plummet $1.7 billion and its stock price fall 86 percent, from $72 a share to just over $10.
To counter those losses, Gannett shed jobs, and a lot of them. Industry estimates say the company has laid off at least 20,000 workers since 2005, reducing its workforce from 52,000 to roughly 32,000. Despite those losses, Gannett awarded Dubow a severance package worth $32 million.