Hat tip: Romenesko
On Wednesday, worries that the dominant Seattle daily may soon file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection crept out into the open when an administrator for the union that represents Times employees mentioned the possibility in an e-mail to union members.
"Within the Guild we have been preparing for a number of worst-case scenarios, including the possibility that the Times might enter the Chapter 11 bankruptcy process," wrote Liz Brown, administrator for the union, the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Guild.
Brown's e-mail came in response to an earlier e-mail from Times managers suggesting that a union employee pension freeze might be sought in upcoming contract negotiations. Brown's e-mail also noted the "scary times for newspapers and newspaper employees" and predicted that the Times would seek further concessions from the union when those contract negotiations get underway. (The paper has already instituted unpaid furloughs and pension freezes for its non-union managers.)
After Brown's e-mail went out, Alayne Fardella, Senior Vice President for Business Operations at The Seattle Times Company, sent a response to Times managers. Fardella specifically mentioned Brown's e-mail, did not deny that Chapter 11 is a possibility, and said the company is keeping all options open.
Among Times reporters, according to one newsroom source, it's "commonly understood, or presumed" that a bankruptcy filing by the Times is "a very likely next step within the year." However, at a staff meeting on Wednesday, David Boardman, executive editor for the Times, presented bankruptcy as a last-ditch option—and a highly unappealing one to the paper's owners, given that it would allow a court to step in and exert a certain amount of control over the paper's business model. The implication was that significant concessions by the reporters' union in upcoming contract negotiations could help avoid that difficult scenario.