Posts Tagged ‘job cuts’

Gary Pruitt lies to stockholders

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

Gary Pruitt, at McClatchy’s shareholders meeting Wednesday, boasted of “McClatchy’s unwavering commitment to public service journalism” and vowed that the publishing company would continue to “provide relevant, high quality journalism.”

Anyone who reads a McClatchy newspaper knows the quality of the journalism has declined precipitously as the company has cut positions, and anyone who works for, or has worked for, McClatchy knows that its management is committed only to the bottom line — money.

Pruitt bases his claim of ongoing quality on national recognition of the work of three McClatchy papers: The Kansas City Star winning the Robert F. Kennedy Award, the Belleville (Ill.) News-Democrat winning the George Polk Award and the McClatchy Washington Bureau being named as a Pulitzer Prize finalist for national reporting. But this work, and other solid reporting at McClatchy newspapers, is the work of local journalists who remain dedicated to their profession, not McClatchy. Pruitt gloms onto their efforts while he has eliminated the jobs of about a third of their colleagues and makes plans to eliminate more.

Perhaps the job cuts were inevitable given the economy and the changes in the newspaper industry. But to maintain that they have not adversely affected the quality of the newspapers is simply a lie and an insult to those whose lives have been disrupted by these layoffs.

Pruitt is every bit as despicable as the CEOs of BP, Wall Street banks, Big Tobacco and other industries who care solely about profits and don’t give a thought about who they use or hurt along the way.

McClatchy to reap $230M in sale

Friday, May 7th, 2010

The McClatchy Company is about to pocket $230 million from a man interested in a sure-fire advertising vehicle.

But, Mark Siffin isn’t advertising in the company’s newspapers. He wants land McClatchy owns so he can build a parking garage and erect a pair of 20-story-tall electronic billboards on top of it, according to the South Florida Business Journal.

Siffin will pay $230 million for 10 acres owned by McClatchy’s Miami Herald. He plans to build the garage and a retail center next door. He has already paid McClatchy $16 million toward the purchase, which included an extension on the contract to close in 2011.

Siffin still has to get a city commission to approve a new ordinance allowing the electronic billboards. Some residents oppose them.

Regardless, McClatchy gets to sell land it has been trying to unload for some time at a good price; the same lot was under contract for $190 million in 2005, the height of the real estate market, according to the Journal.

You’d think $230 million could save a lot of journalists’ jobs, but you wouldn’t want to bet on it.

McClatchy ‘profit’ debatable; more job cuts hinted

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

The McClatchy Company continues to be hampered by debt, with a reported loss in the latest quarter attributed “primarily to one-time charges for refinancing debt and restructuring,” according to the Sacramento Business Journal.

The publisher’s first quarter report on Thursday showed improvement, thanks to reduced expenses — obtained chiefly through layoffs, which may not be over  — and an advertising climate that isn’t as bad as it was.

But the bottom line was  “a net loss from continuing operations of $2 million, or 2 cents per share,” the Business Journal says. “In the same period last year, the company incurred a net loss from continuing operations of $37.7 million, or 45 cents per share.

“Without the charges, McClatchy earned $4.8 million, or 6 cents a share, for the quarter, compared to a loss of $22.9 million, or 28 cents a share, in first-quarter 2009.”

The Associated Press report, on the other hand, says “a one-time accounting gain related to newspapers that it sold a few years ago” allows McClatchy to claim a profit for the quarter. “[N]et income, including discontinued operations, came to $2.2 million, or 3 cents per share,” the AP says. It lost $37.5 million, or 45 cents per share, in the same period a year earlier, which included charges for severance.

Advertising revenue dropped 11.2 percent to $253 million, better than the 20.5 percent drop in the fourth quarter of 2009. In last year’s third quarter, ad revenue fell 28.1 percent.

Total revenue for the quarter was 8.2 percent less than a year ago, at $335.6 million compared to $365.6 million.

McClatchy’s stock fell following the report, perhaps, Benchmark Co. media analyst Edward Atorino told the AP, because “some investors may have been looking for more details about how McClatchy plans to cut costs, given that it expects further revenue declines.”

The company’s  costs, excluding severance payments, declined more than 21 percent in the first quarter, compared with the same period a year earlier, largely because of lower payroll and newsprint expense, the AP said. McClatchy has cut about a third of its work force since the middle of 2008.

“In a statement, McClatchy CEO Gary Pruitt said the company ‘will remain vigilant’ on costs but acknowledged that second-quarter expenses will not decline the way they did in the first,” the AP said. “During a conference call, Pruitt said the company would try to avoid further job cuts, but he didn’t rule them out.”

The debt restructuring involved extending  “approximately $1 billion in maturities from mid-2011 to mid-2013 and beyond, including the $875 million of senior secured notes due in 2017,” Pat Talamantes, McClatchy’s chief financial officer, said in the release.

McClatchy’s debt remains from its $4.5 billion purchase in 2006 of the much-larger Knight-Ridder newspaper chain.

McClatchy’s stock fell $0.75, or 10.98 percent, to close at $6.08 Thursday.

Writing on newspaper industry’s wall is clear

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

A new count by Media Daily News says the newspaper industry has lost 105,000 jobs in the last decade, as the “rise of the Internet began lowering the curtain on the golden age of print.”

Based on records kept by the U.S. Census Bureau and Department of Labor and tallies by various industry watchers, total employment in the newspaper publishing business has declined from 414,000 in 2001 to 309,000 at the end of 2009, a 25.4 percent drop over the course of eight years,” the report says.

Job cuts in newsrooms accelerated last year as “publishers finally decided they had cut other business functions to the bone, and reluctantly began cutting costs in the newsroom.”

The obvious conclusion: “if 2010-2011 doesn’t bring a big rebound in newspapers’ fortunes, coming years may see the quality and quantity of journalism suffer noticeably.”

McClatchy claims profits, hints at more job cuts

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

The McClatchy Company on Wednesday claimed a profit in the final quarter of 2009 partly attributable to an improving advertising climate, but CEO Gary Pruitt indicated that the company would proceed with more layoffs.

“Given that total ad revenues are still negative and secular challenges remain, we will continue to focus on costs,”  Pruitt said in a statement, according to a New York Times report. Over the past couple of years, “costs” has meant personnel and has translated as job cuts at McClatchy newspapers.

McClatchy posted a 16.5 percent drop in revenue from a year earlier to $393.2 million, and said advertising revenue was down 20.5 percent, to $308.7 million. But, Pruitt said, advertising trends — particularly on the Web and including classifieds — were better in October, November and December.

“McClatchy spent 2009 shrinking itself to match dwindling ad revenue in the recession,” The Associated Press said. “It ended the year with about two-thirds of the payroll it had in the middle of 2008.”

The publisher also announced a deal to delay payments on its $1.95 billion of debt by selling bonds and assuming higher interest rates.

Toronto Star holds onto copy editing

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

The Toronto Star has abandoned a plan to outsource its copy editing, instead going with a new page production desk that will employ about half as many copy editor positions as would have been cut, CBC News reports.

The paper announced the plan in November, then said union concessions could keep it from happening. On Monday, editor Michael Cooke announced a deal with the union and the implementation of a desk with “up to 35” staff members.

The original plan was to cut 70 full-time and eight part-time editorial jobs and another 39 full-time and four part-time pre-press jobs in a bid to save more than $4 million a year.

Copy editing jobs would have been outsourced to a firm called Pagemasters, which does contracted work for the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age in Melbourne and the New Zealand Herald.

The Star is still likely to cut the 43 pre-press jobs, according to the CBC.

“Some 166 employees have accepted voluntary buyouts at the newspaper and the offer has been extended for some [other] areas of the company,” the report says. “Torstar Corp. employs about 7,000 people, while the Star has about 1,300 workers across all its divisions, including its printing plant just north of Toronto.”

Charlotte Observer cuts 25 positions

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

The Charlotte Observer, McClatchy’s largest newspaper in the Carolina, announced the elimination of 25 positions today.

The cuts are involuntary and will include 11 full-time positions in the newsroom. Departing employees will receive buyout packages, the newspaper said.

Publisher Ann Culkins blamed declining revenue and “a difficult local economy.”

Earlier this month, McClatchy announced layoffs of more than 85 people at its newspapers in Raleigh, Sacramento, Columbia, S.C., Fort Worth, Texas, and Anchorage, Alaska.

More McClatchy papers announce layoffs

Friday, January 15th, 2010

After The News & Observer and the Sacramento Bee opened the week by announcing the elimination of 46 jobs between them, more McClatchy papers followed: The State of Columbia, S.C., announced Tuesday it was laying off 12 in its newsroom and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram said Thursday it would layoff 28 employees and eliminate 17 open jobs. Also on Tuesday, the Anchorage Daily News announced an undisclosed number of job cuts.

The Sacramento Business Journal on Monday said McClatchy, the owner of 30 daily newspapers,  has cut a total of 4,150 jobs since June 2008 – an average of 138 per newspaper.

N&O eliminates 21 positions, SacBee axes 25

Monday, January 11th, 2010

The News & Observer announced the elimination of 21 positions this morning, including 10 from the newsroom. The Sacramento Bee, another McClatchy newspaper, announced the elimination of 25 positions.

The reductions represent “the latest cuts as the media company rides out a sharp decline in revenue,”  The N&O’s report says.

In a memo to the newsroom, Managing Editor John Drescher said five newsroom employees in single-incumbent jobs — meaning they are the only ones who do their jobs — were told today their last day at the newspaper will be January 29. In addition, five employees from  photo, design, copy editing and news research must come forward to have their positions eliminated or staff members will be let go according to seniority.

“We continue to operate in a time of great challenge at The News & Observer, at The McClatchy Company and within the newspaper industry,” N&O Publisher Orage Quarles III said in his announcement to staff. “While we have already implemented a number of cost-control and reorganization measures, revenues continue to show losses, and we must reduce our expenses until we are again showing growth.”

In December, McClatchy CEO Gary Pruitt said all of the company’s daily papers were making a profit. Pruitt also said at the time that more cost reduction, in the high-20 percent range, would be necessary in 2010.

In addition to the ongoing decline of the newspaper industry, McClatchy has been burdened by about $2 billion in debt acquired mostly in its  2006 acquisition of Knight Ridder. The company has wiped out some $1.4 billion of the debt over the last four years, according to a previous Editor & Publisher report.

The N&O has 524 full-time positions today, down from 704 a year ago, according to the newspaper’s report about today’s layoffs. The newspaper last year also cut wages, suspended contributions to retirement plans and required unpaid furloughs for its staff.

Last year, The N&O had layoffs or buyouts in April and August, after a previous round in October 2008 and various other jobs eliminated earlier.

Quarles told his reporter today that it’s too soon to say whether there could be more cuts this year, a decision that will hinge mostly on how much ad sales rebound.

“I know that these announcements are distracting and disruptive, and I apologize for that,” Quarles’ e-mail said. “We can only ask, with utmost respect and gratitude for all that you do, that everyone stays focused and continues to work hard to help our company continue to make its way through these difficult times.”

“This is another sad day,” Drescher said.

McClatchy restructured a portion of its debt in December and has seen its stock price double since.  It rose 25 cents Monday, topping $5 to settle at $5.14 a share at closing.

“When it announces its latest earnings next week, McClatchy is expected to report that fourth-quarter revenue fell by a percentage in the low-to-mid-20s, compared with a 28 percent drop in the third quarter,” The N&O today.

McClatchy wants to cut severance pay

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

Unionized Sacramento Bee workers are negotiating with parent McClatchy Newspapers over concessions that include reducing severance pay from a maximum of 40 weeks to 26,  the Sacramento News & Review says.

“Among the other concessions that the company is seeking are the unlimited use of part-time and freelance workers, and the ability to assign Bee employees to do work for other McClatchy newspapers and Web sites,” the SN&R says.

“Guild representatives say the new severance rules would make it $10,000-$20,000 cheaper to lay off some veteran employees. Although Bee workers that SN&R spoke with are hopeful that major layoffs are, for now, in the past, the severance proposal has been troubling news,” the newspaper says.

Non-unionized McClatchy workers who have been laid off have typically received a maximum of 26 weeks pay as severance.

“[D]espite [CEO Gary] Pruitt’s cheerful report last week, McClatchy still plans to cut costs companywide by more than 20 percent in 2010. According to Editor & Publisher magazine (which, in another sign of the times, went out of business last week), McClatchy wants to outsource more of its production and share more editorial content between newspapers.”