Monday, March 23, 2009

Lexington Herald-Leader to lay off 49 full-time employees, 4 part-time employees

The Lexington Herald Leader says it will lay off 53 employees and cut wages of the workers who remain. Here is the email sent to employees by the paper's publisher:
March 23, 2009


Two weeks ago, I communicated that we were still developing our expense reduction plans and would finalize and share them with you as soon as possible. I have tried to keep you up to date since then.

Today, I want to let you know what those plans mean for the Herald-Leader. We are announcing the layoffs of 49 full-time and four part-time employees, or 15.3% of the total FTE base. We also will be reducing some full-time jobs to part-time, offering a few people lesser positions and not filling some positions created by retirements and other vacancies.

Regular full-time and part-time employees who are laid off or who decline a non-comparable position would be eligible for the regular severance, which is a minimum of four weeks to a maximum of 26 weeks based on years of service. We also will be working to assist those people transitioning from full-time to part-time status.

In addition, we are implementing a 5% wage reduction for all employees who make $25,000 or more annually except for those full-time employees whose hours are being reduced to part-time. Members of the executive group, including the publisher, will see a 10% reduction in salary and, as I announced in an employee meeting last month, the elimination of the bonus plan for 2009. Every employee whose wage is being reduced will receive a letter detailing the impact on his or her pay and will have the opportunity to ask questions. These wage reductions take effect on April 6, 2009.

Although much of the job reduction will occur through involuntary layoffs, there also will be opportunities for some employees to voluntarily elect a severance package where reductions are occurring in most work groups of two or more employees. If enough employees do not take the voluntary option, then the work groups will be reduced according to least tenure in most areas. Two exceptions are the newsroom bargaining unit, where we have a contractual obligation otherwise, and in advertising sales.

Reductions will occur throughout the operation. Employees affected by the reduction are being notified as quickly as we are able to do so and they will be provided with information about a severance package. It will take most of the day to get through all of the divisions because we plan to try talk to every impacted person. I ask each of you to be patient through this process.

This is a tremendously difficult and disrupting event for displaced employees, their families, the paper and those who remain. We are losing many valued, well-respected and well-liked colleagues. We appreciate all that they have done for the Herald-Leader and will do everything we can, including outplacement assistance, to make their transition as respectful and smooth as possible.

As you know, the company last week negotiated with the Newspaper Guild the right to implement a one-week unpaid furlough between now and March 31, 2010. We are not planning furloughs for the first half of the year. However, we may revisit that option later in the year if financial conditions do not improve. We think it is important that you know it is a possibility, and details will be provided if and when a decision is made.

Also, we are taking many other actions on both the revenue and expense sides that will become apparent over the new few weeks. They include but are not limited to circulation pricing, newsprint and other expense categories both large and small. Additionally, we plan to launch a used-car niche publication for which local car dealers have been asking that we believe will fill a void in the market left by the departure of Auto Trader.

We will get through this. The Herald-Leader has been published under one nameplate or another since the late 1800s and it will be around for a long time to come. Print and online combined, we are reaching many more people than we ever have before. We will still have, by far, the largest newsgathering force of any media outlet in Central, Eastern and South-Central Kentucky. And the recent pairing of Yahoo! behavioral targeting with allows us to provide unparalleled penetration for advertisers – 90 percent of all online users in a 40-county area.

Again, I want to apologize for all of the disruption that you have experienced over the last few weeks. This is a very difficult time for everyone, and it will continue to be difficult as we adapt to a new way of doing business.

The decisions we have had to make have been wrenching because they mean saying goodbye to so many friends and colleagues. But we must make these additional cuts to adjust to the new competitive and economic realities and to ensure our continued viability. I respectfully ask, as I have in the past, that we keep our focus and continue to work hard to help our newspaper and our websites succeed.

Please contact Jim Green, Michael Wells or Cindy Frazer in Human Resources if you have any questions about the severance program or wage reductions.

And please know that I deeply appreciate all that you have done and continue to do.

Hat tip: email. Photo credit: McClatchy


Anonymous said...

15% is a pretty big hit

Anonymous said...

To All Observer Employees,

As you know, McClatchy Newspapers must put into place significant expense reductions to address a sharp decline in revenues resulting from the ongoing economic recession. We are now in a position to move forward with specific plans for The Charlotte Observer.

We will reduce our present workforce by 14.6%, largely through the involuntary separation of 60 full-time and 22 part-time employees. We are reducing the work hours of some employees. Reductions will occur across most of the company, including Advertising, Human Resources, Finance, IT, News, Operations, Circulation and Marketing.

All affected employees are being notified immediately and told about transition packages. We deeply value their contributions to this company and regret that economic circumstances require these decisions. The Observer is, and always will be, the people who produce it. Please know that we reduced costs in every other feasible way before turning to the elimination of jobs.

To that end, we are taking another step that will reduce payroll while helping to prevent the further loss of jobs. We will implement wage reductions for all employees whose compensation exceeds $25,000 annually. Every employee will receive a letter detailing the impact on individual pay and have the opportunity to ask questions. Wage reductions take effect April 20th and will appear on your May 8th pay check.

Should business conditions continue to deteriorate, we may also find it necessary to schedule a one-week furlough for most employees for the second half of the year. We expect to make a decision on this by late spring or early summer.

As we have previously announced, we are also taking significant steps to reduce operational costs. All divisions have contributed to this effort. Each division continues to closely analyze expenses for savings that will help us work through this difficult business climate while also maintaining our commitment to our readers and our advertisers. A recent example was our decision to move the Business section into an expanded A section most weekdays. More details are forthcoming from individual divisions as they develop.

This horrible recession will pass. Thank you for all you are doing to keep us on mission until that day comes. If you have questions, human resources and your division vice presidents will work to get your answers.

Ann Caulkins
President & Publisher
The Charlotte Observer
600 S. Tryon Street
Charlotte, NC 28202

Anonymous said...

what these publishers don't say is if salaries will go back to normal once this "downturn" is in the rear-view mirror. someone needs to address that.

thinking of all my observer pals!

Anonymous said...

The editor is out!

JAT said...

Thanks for the declaration 7:09, but a little more detail would not hurt, in as much as we are interested in many papers and many editors.

Anonymous said...

Linda Austin is the editor.

Anonymous said...

She is leaving for another job; not laid off. Just a coincidence that the announcement came today?

Anonymous said...

Herald-Leader editor takes university job
Herald-Leader staff report

The editor of the Herald-Leader is leaving for a university job.

Linda Austin, who has been editor for two years, said details about her new position would be forthcoming shortly.

Publisher Timothy M. Kelly expressed disappointment at her leaving, but wished her well, adding that “this is an excellent opportunity for Linda in a field in which she has both interest and expertise.”

He said that “the newsroom has performed some of its best watchdog journalism work in years over the past few months under Linda’s direction.”

He added that the staff has made great strides online during her tenure, launching three Web sites --, and -- as well as an enhanced channel for high school sports and numerous community blogs. Its multimedia project, "A New Dawn? A Kentucky Mother's Struggle through Drug Court," was picked as the best in the world in the Pictures of the Year International competition last year.

Austin said her leaving is unrelated to the layoffs at the Herald-Leader announced Monday.

Kelly said that a search for her successor would begin immediately. In the interim, Deputy Managing Editor Peter Baniak will be in charge of the newsroom.

Before coming to Lexington, Austin, 53, was the executive editor of The News-Sentinel in Fort Wayne, Ind. She is a native of Charlotte, N.C., and a graduate with highest honors from the University of North Carolina School of Journalism.


Anonymous said...

hopefully this won't be the only one of the executive group to leave or be laid off. More NEED to go from this group. Two more should be out the door asap and most know who they are.

Anonymous said...

Makes me wonder what kind of University would hire someone who participated in the death of journalistic ethics. Why would they hire a failure in the business? Come to think of it, why would they be adding to the department at all. It isn't like anyone is screaming for journalists out there. What a lousy career choice that would be to make today.

Anonymous said...

They've talked about the wage reduction for those making under $100k and the executives - but what about those making over $100k that aren't on the executive board???

The VP states it could have been worse but I don't see it.

Anonymous said...

Probably what the vp means Anonymous 10:44 am is that it could be worse, LIKE him losing his job. The vps don't care about the staff just their own butts.

Anonymous said...

What a shame that so many talented people are leaving. But, the saddest part is that upper management at the Herald-Leader remain. Aren't they the ones making the decisions that have put the paper in this position? Of course the current trends in print media and the current economic situation didn't help. Why is Wayne Snow still at the helm? He's in over his head. He's got to go!

Hardrock said...

I've talked to more than 10 of the people that are either leaving or being dropped to part-time. All are severely affected by this. I have not heard of any management changes with exception of editor leaving. Tim sent immediate message that they would be looking for replacement. WHY???

Anonymous said...

Has anyone seen a list of the reporters/writers who have been let go at the H/L? Already missing Rick Bailey and Jim Jordan. Who else is gone?