The past few weeks have yielded a bumper crop of bad news for The News, and consequently, for Guild members. The News experienced its worst first quarter in decades and has embarked on a series of cost-cutting measures, including buyouts on the newsroom floor.
In May, management offered cash buyouts to nine Guild members in the Editorial Department.
The employees were told their jobs were either being eliminated or their hours slashed. The Guild members whom management approached included copy editors, designers, part-time reporters and clerical staff. More newsroom buyouts are expected.
In some ways, these painful events highlight the importance of the Guild at this paper. Since the buyouts were offered, the Guild has moved into high gear, disseminating information, negotiating better buyout packages and safeguarding Guild member rights.
The Guild has also made financial planning resources available to members free of charge and even corrected company errors in buyout calculations that could have cost our members thousands of dollars.
The targeted buyouts in Editorial follow layoffs and attrition in other Guild departments in prior years, including the outsourcing of Classified last year.
Fortunately, News management has indicated there would be no staff cuts at the present time in other Guild departments.
The latest Editorial buyout offers are part of companywide steps to “reduce legacy costs” as print advertising revenue continues to plummet, News Editor Mike Connelly wrote in an email to editorial department staff.
“These changes will be painful and difficult … we will alter the newspaper in ways that we wouldn’t have imagined even a year ago,” Connelly wrote. “As has happened so often in the news business during the past decade, we will say goodbye to valued colleagues. Most of us who remain will do different jobs or do our jobs differently.”
Connelly listed some other cost-saving efforts happening in Editorial and involving the paper, including the elimination of some sections or a reduction in pages and consolidation of sections in order to save on newsprint costs.
Companywide, other steps taken to reduce costs have included eliminating most honor boxes, combining warehouse space and leaving some high-level management positions vacant.
During these past few days, at a time when the company is shrinking, some Guild members have questioned how this company decides who is worth keeping.
But no one should question their value to this place no matter what course management sets. We know what we’re worth, and so do the Guild colleagues who work alongside us.
Our personal commitment to producing the best possible news product in ever more challenging times is simply an amazing feat. As far as the Guild is concerned, that should always be what defines us.