Projo to cut newsroom staff amid ongoing ad, circulation slumpDecember 2nd, 2011 at 12:09 pm by Ted Nesi under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site
The staff reductions will be the first cuts to The Journal’s newsroom since multiple rounds of layoffs in 2008 and 2009. They come as the paper prepares to begin charging next year for its new website, which debuted Oct. 17. The news was first reported by Scott MacKay of Rhode Island Public Radio.
The Journal is looking to cut one reporter, one copy editor, one photographer and one editorial assistant, plus four advertising representatives, said John Hill, president of the Providence Newspaper Guild. Employees in other jobs have been encouraged to apply for a buyout if they’re interested in leaving, he said.
“The impression we’re getting is there’s a dollar amount in terms of the total amount of savings they want,” Hill told WPRI.com. Layoffs will take place if the company doesn’t reach its goal and are decided by seniority, he said. The Dallas Morning News, its sister paper, reportedly laid off 38 newsroom staffers in September.
Journal employees have until Dec. 16 to decide whether to agree to a buyout, which Journal insiders described as less generous than previous offers. They would remain on the payroll until Dec. 30 and be eligible for a pension from the newspaper in 2012.
The Journal’s total revenue fell 6% to $68.8 million during the first nine months of 2011, with advertising sales down 11% to $38.2 million, Dallas-based parent company A.H. Belo said last month. The paper’s weekday circulation fell 7% to 90,085 copies in the six months ended Sept. 30, the Audit Bureau of Circulations said.
The cuts at The Journal are the latest in a wave of staff reductions at newspapers nationwide, including the New York Daily News and The Denver Post, as the industry continues to struggle to transition to the digital era.
Hill said anecdotal reports showed advertising sales were weak in September and October but bounced back in November. The union and management are hopeful the online paywall the paper is rolling out next year will increase The Journal’s subscription numbers.
A.H. Belo CEO Robert Decherd told investors last month he thinks advertising sales will stop declining at The Journal and its California sister paper, The Press-Enterprise. “I think you can expect some modest stability in those markets, because they just cannot continue to decline at the rates they have,” he said. “That’s what we’re counting on. There has to be a stabilization there.”
The Journal lost about 150 employees between mid-2008 and March 2009, reducing its total headcount to 562 full- and part-time workers at the time. Job cuts have been concentrated in advertising since then, Hill said. The Journal is ranked as Rhode Island’s 46th-largest employer by the R.I. Economic Development Corporation.
“This is nothing to celebrate in any way, shape or form,” Hill said of the buyouts. “At the same time, it could have been so profoundly worse.” He noted employees at three other Northeast papers – the Albany Times Union, the Manchester Union-Leader and the Portland Press Herald – have fared worse over the last month and a half.
“We’re hoping this is an indication that we’re starting to bottom out on this,” he said.
More Providence Journal and A.H. Belo coverage:
- Full Projo paywall set for 2012 as advertising sales slump 11% (Nov. 3)
- The new ProvidenceJournal.com just went live (Oct. 17)
- A.H. Belo’s surprising success amid the newspaper storm (May 18)
- Projo falls below $100M mark as half of ads evaporate (March 14)
- No reason for Belo to sell Projo with price at $51m (Dec. 28)
- Why the Projo’s finances are healthier than you think (Nov. 18)