Skip to comments.Beacon Journal cuts newsroom staff (Dinosaur Media DeathWatch™)
Posted on 08/22/2006 2:20:23 PM PDT by abb
The Akron Beacon Journal today said it's laying off 40 people in its 161-person newsroom.
Twenty-nine of those positions are full-time. Employees were given 60 days' notice and will receive severance pay amounting to one week's pay for every six months of service.
A representative of the Newspaper Guild/Communications Workers of America, the newsroom union, said the list shows two artists, four photographers, eight copy editors, 11 reporters and four nonunion managers, as well as a librarian, three clerks and all seven student correspondents. That list includes pop music critic Malcolm X Abram and movie critic George Thomas. (An earlier version of this story said 41 people were laid off; a company spokeswoman had provided incorrect information.)
The Akron paper plans to announce more layoffs throughout the rest of the building, in departments such as accounting and circulation, in the next few weeks. The Beacon employs about 710 people.
With the breakup of the Knight-Ridder newspaper group, the Beacon Journal was sold earlier this year to Black Press Ltd.
One after another, U.S. newspapers have been cutting staff as print circulation and advertising revenues decline. The Plain Dealer announced earlier this month its own program, which involves voluntary buyouts rather than forced cuts. The Plain Dealer has not said how many jobs it expects to lose with the buyouts, which top out with an offer, to employees 50 or older with at least 20 years of seniority, that includes 2-1/2 years' pay and health-care benefits.
In June, reporting on the Beacon Journal's sale and a visit from new owner David Black, The Plain Dealer reported:
Bernie Lunzer, executive secretary of the Washington, D.C.-based Newspaper Guild/Communications Workers of America, which represents reporters and some editors at the Beacon Journal and The Plain Dealer, said the union would pay close attention to the Beacon Journal once Black acquires it.
Five years ago, Black bought the Honolulu Star Bulletin. Wayne Cahill, administrative officer for the Guild local there, said Black has honored the contract and generally kept his word.
Black also allows the union to examine the newspaper's financial records at any time, said Cahill. He is not publicly traded and tells us he can live with lower profit margins, he said. He has not come in and slashed the staff.
40 of 161? Thats a pretty big bite... wasn't this paper sold recently?
25% cut! Excellent!
LOL! I see we're having another GOOD day!
News room employees are very anti business. It must come as a terrible shock to learn that they work for one.
The Akron paper plans to announce more layoffs throughout the rest of the building, in departments such as accounting and circulation, in the next few weeks.
Surely this must be Bush's fault?
then more good news for tomorrow
Bet the journalism majors are quaking.
I heard someone who works for the paper talking on Sunday about the paper..that the newsroom was in chaos...morale bad...employees angry at management and each other...
They are beyond "Decimating the union thugs on their staff!"
"News room employees are very anti business. It must come as a terrible shock to learn that they work for one."
2005 and 2006 have been big wake up calls for the druggies and alcoholics, who used to receive paychecks for lying, spinning and trying to create news instead of real reporting of news.
Didn't the buyer make promises about no major cuts for a while? or am I thinking of another paper?
Beacon to cut its news staffing
Dropping profits spur new owner to lay off quarter of newsroom
By Gloria Irwin
Beacon Journal business writer
About one-quarter of the newsroom employees at the Akron Beacon Journal will lose their jobs within the next two months.
``It's a very sad day for the Beacon Journal,'' new publisher Edward R. Moss said Tuesday in announcing 39 layoffs, which he said are necessary to align costs with revenue.
The moves are part of a companywide restructuring that will result in additional job reductions, Moss said.
It was only the second time in the newspaper's 167-year history that there have been layoffs in the newsroom.
In 2001, the newspaper reduced staffing through layoffs and buyouts.
The Beacon Journal has lost revenue from advertisers that have ``cut back significantly and impacted our financial health,'' Moss said. The newspaper is developing a plan to increase revenue, he said.
Other newspapers are facing similar revenue losses and have taken steps to reduce staffing through buyouts and layoffs.
``We're not alone,'' Moss said.
Moss, who was named publisher by new owner David Black on Aug. 7, said the newspaper's profits have fallen by about 50 percent during the last four years.
Canadian publishing company Black Press Ltd. paid $165 million for the newspaper and its Web site, Ohio.com, in June, after the breakup of parent Knight Ridder Inc. was complete.
Black told employees days before the transaction closed that jobs would have to be cut because of revenue losses.
Newsroom layoffs include two artists, eight copy editors, four photographers, 11 reporters, one librarian, three clerks and seven student correspondents. All are members of the Newspaper Guild.
In addition, three management-level editors will lose their jobs and a fourth nonunion position will not be filled.
``There could be the need for further reductions'' in the newsroom if revenue does not improve, Moss said.
Before the cuts, the newsroom had about 160 employees.
Editor Debra Adams Simmons said the layoffs will affect the newspaper.
``We're evaluating everything that we do and everything we need to do to determine the best combination of content possible with the staff that we have,'' she said.
The restructured newspaper's efforts will focus on Summit County, its core market, said Managing Editor Mizell Stewart III.
Gloria Irwin can be reached at 330-996-3720 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now that I don't remember...could have happened tho. I don't read the paper myself, much, and we were gone a lot early in the summer:-)
'Beacon Journal' Guild Hits 'Deep Cuts' at Akron Paper
By Joe Strupp
Published: August 24, 2006 2:15 PMET
NEW YORK The Akron (Ohio) Beacon Journal's plan to cut 25% of its newsroom staff has local guild leaders worried about the impact on the union's future strength, and the paper's ability to continue covering a five-county area.
"How do we continue to be an effective group?" said Andale Gross, a nine-year reporter at the paper and unit chair for the Northeast Ohio Newspaper Guild, which has 140 members there. "It is a significant loss. How do we ensure that the people who remain can stand strong?"
Of the 40 newsroom staffers destined for layoffs in the cuts that were first announced Tuesday, 36 are members of the guild unit, Gross said. That means slightly more than 25% of the union's power will be lost.
"A number of people who are cut are members of our executive board, potential future leaders," Gross said. "It makes us a smaller group and it puts us in a position where we take a hit."
The cutbacks were the first major move by new owner David Black, president of Black Press, which bought the former Knight Ridder paper from The McClatchy Company earlier this month.
"We are extremely disappointed the employer has decided
to make such deep cuts in the Beacon Journal newsroom," Executive Secretary Mark Davis of the guild local said in a statement Thursday. "Layoffs and buyouts in 2001 had already reduced the newsroom by 20 percent, and now they are chopping another third."
He also noted that "this is a newspaper that has won four Pulitzer Prizes. With such deep cuts, there is no way to maintain the quality journalism to which the Akron area community - readers and advertisers alike - has long been accustomed."
Although the guild is currently in a four-year contract that does not end until 2008, Gross admitted that the layoffs by a new owner raise concerns about how management might engage in future contract negotiations.
"We expect there to be some challenges," Gross said about the future talks. "Negotiations with a new owner: We don't know what that will bring forward. I don't think it is going to be easy."
As for coverage, Gross also indicated concern that the paper may not be able to continue covering the five-county area it has blanketed since he joined up in 1997. He suggested that emphasizing Akron and surrounding Summit County would be the best approach and believed editors were looking at that reassessment.
"We have taken a lot of [staff] hits through the years and we have still acted as a five-county paper," he said. "I don't think we should. We should pull back to take care of Akron and Summit County and go back to the other counties when stories break."
Editor Debra Adams Simmons and Managing Editor Mizell Stewart could not be reached for comment on that issue. Rita Kelly Madick, a spokeswoman for the paper, agreed that a coverage pullback was likely in the offing. "We are used to being a great paper," she said. "And if that means looking at covering a smaller area, it is an obvious one to look at."
But even with a realignment of beats and coverage areas, Gross contends that the layoffs will hurt because they are removing several key writers. "We are losing several sports writers, one columnist who is well-known, the pop music critic, and the movie critic," he said. "It goes by seniority, so essentially beats are being cut."
The seniority approach is a mandate of the guild contract, Gross said. He also said the paper appeared to be implementing the layoffs in the proper way, as the contract dictates. But he said there may be some grievances filed if the guild finds specific people were not treated correctly.
"We want to make sure everyone is following the proper job titles," he said. "The company put together the seniority list so we want to make sure it was done in a way we agree with."
Madick added that further layoffs outside the newsroom are expected in the coming weeks, but offered no more details. "I expect the same level of signifigance throughout the building," she said.
Joe Strupp (email@example.com) is a senior editor at E&P.
A new owner, another punishing round of layoffs.
By Denise Grollmus
Article Published Aug 30, 2006
On an August day, Dave Wilson was standing in his kitchen, preparing himself for the end, when his wife nodded to his Knight Ridder coffee mug. "You don't want to drink from that," she said.
I sure as hell don't, Wilson thought.
He'd given 18 years to that damn company, a decade of which he'd spent as a reporter and editor for the Akron Beacon Journal. He snatched up the mug and headed to a co-worker's house, where Beacon employees were mourning the end of an era. Knight Ridder, once one of America's largest newspaper chains, with papers from Philadelphia to San Jose, was officially dead.
"Anyone got a golf club?" Wilson asked when he arrived. Someone slipped him a monster-sized driver. He placed the mug on a tee, then hammered it into a cloud of ceramic shards. "It was like saying adios to that whole scenario," he says.
Once upon a time that stupid little cup had meant something special -- something that fought to better people's lives, earned Pulitzers for doing so, and allowed Wilson to be a proud provider. Now, on this crappy August day, it stood for something ugly -- something full of defeat, anxiety, and loss.
Knight Ridder had spent the past four years trying to appease the bottom line with layoffs and cutbacks that shrank the Beacon to Nicole Richie proportions. Then it sold the paper off like a barren mare. But not even the new owner, McClatchy, wanted anything to do with it. The company spit it back onto the auction block just days after the purchase.
Tony Ridder, the company's CEO and chairman, walked away with $45 million and promptly closed shop. The words of the man to whom he owed his great fortune had apparently eluded him long ago. "We believe in profitability but do not sacrifice either principle or quality on the altar of the counting house," said John S. Knight, the former owner of the Beacon.
That mission officially flatlined when Wilson's co-workers watched him shatter his favorite mug. But as the cup exploded, they knew that the worst was far from over.
That same month, McClatchy quickly pawned the Beacon off on Black Press for $165 million. The Canadian company's owner, David Black, assured staffers that he cared about journalism, wouldn't mess with their union, and wasn't going to lay anyone off. Some breathed a sigh of relief. Others knew better. "We knew more layoffs were coming," Wilson says.
A few weeks later, Black finally must have taken a good look at the books "and said, 'Oh, shit!,'" Wilson believes.
On August 22, Black laid off 40 staffers -- almost a quarter of the newsroom.
Along with Wilson went eight copy editors, four photographers, the Browns beat writer, and a state-politics reporter. Today, there is no music writer. No movie critic. And forget about looking forward to Tom Reed's sports column, unless someone takes a voluntary buyout and saves his job. They're all gone to save $2.3 million.
More pink slips are coming, as if the paper still has casualties to spare. "We're all wondering, "Who in the hell is gonna cover sports? We hardly have anyone left," says a reporter whose job was spared.
As the layoffs were announced, people ran to bathrooms, crying. Others fled to a downtown bar to numb the news. Ridder's reign of terror hadn't really ended, it seemed. "I was a little bit taken by surprise," Wilson says. "I thought there were others who were more expensive. I pretty much spent the whole next day seething with anger."
Over rounds of MGD and whiskey, staffers pondered what led to the latest bloodletting. Just as Black bought the paper, it was losing its biggest advertiser, Kaufmann's. The department store was being purchased by Macy's, notorious for not advertising in local newspapers.
It was a financial blow the Beacon did little to prepare for. It simply raised ad rates and ignored the rest. "People were just hoping it was gonna fix itself," Wilson says. "Newspapers have often succeeded in spite of themselves. That's no longer the case."
Adds columnist David Giffels, who is now dealing with survivor guilt, having withstood the purge: "Daily newspapers are big old traditional companies that are slow to adapt . . . There hasn't been that sort of fire to adapt in an aggressive way. And until they start, those numbers are never going to turn around."
But Knight Ridder was the epitome of an old, lethargic company. "It became so bureaucratic," Wilson says. "There were too many committees, and committees always make bad choices."
One committee decided to put all the websites entirely under corporate control. Until recently, the Beacon newsroom had no input into what landed on Ohio.com.
"Reporters could never have pitched some creative project for Ohio.com without it going through all sorts of bureaucracy and killing some spontaneity," Giffels says.
Wilson agrees. "They homogenized [all the sites], not thinking that Akron isn't San Jose or Philly. We're a sports-crazy town. No one even looked at the site until the Indians' 1995 playoff run got it started. Now it's all crap up there."
Employees also point to capitalism's favorite mantra: You gotta spend money to make money, and spend it smart.
The paper did expand sports and youth-culture coverage, and boosted reporting in Stark County. "The problem was that if they didn't get visible results in two months, they'd just kill it," Wilson says. "After two months, they'd always say, 'Oh! It's not working! We quit!' It was suicidal."
Nothing seemed to please the bottom line, ever.
So the Beacon opted for that most medieval of remedies. It bled itself.
Giffels points to the first round of newsroom layoffs in 2001. Since the paper's union has a policy of last hired, first fired, the paper purged itself of the kind of spark it needs to compete, he says.
"When we had cuts five years ago, I watched the next generation of exciting reporters depart before they got a chance to blossom here," he says. "We don't have any young reporters, not anyone left in their 20s, and not very many left in their 30s. We can't reinvent ourselves unless we have fresh young people who think about journalism in a more modern way."
Despite the loss of its cash cow, Rita Kelly Madick, the paper's spokeswoman, admits that the Beacon is still profitable. As Knight Ridder was closing, the paper was still boasting profit margins exceeding 20 percent, among the best performances in the chain.
"You almost forget that we're actually profitable," says a reporter who was laid off. "David Black makes it sound like all we're doing is losing money."
But Madick says that mere profitability isn't enough. "In the competitive marketplace, in our industry, you gotta be strong to compete," she says. "It isn't enough to say that you're just profitable. So, now we have to align our spending with our revenue. No one likes layoffs, but it's a much-needed adjustment."
The newsroom is being massively restructured. The paper will give up coverage of every county but Summit and cut down on arts and sports. In the meantime, people will be moved to jobs they don't want and forced to give up those they love. Some senior staffers will accept voluntary buyouts to spare others or simply because they're fed up. "I just hope we make the right decisions about what to do with what we have left," Giffels says.
And those who've survived seem to feel just as bad as those now unemployed. "It just doesn't sound like it's gonna be a fun place to work," says one reporter. "People already complain that the paper's too thin. I just wonder if it's just gonna get worse."
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