Thursday, September 4, 2008

Layoff FAQs

The sad news finally arrived. It was not entirely unexpected. That does not make it easier to absorb.

Several questions were answered. Many more were raised.

The following is a feeble attempt to address what is known at this point. We understand this is not as complete as you all may want or deserve. Our apologies.

If you have a question you think we missed, e-mail us at

Q: What was the actual number of buyout takers?
A: 413 at all properties. Corporate wanted 500.

Q: What was the distribution throughout the company?
A: The Dallas Morning News had the most departures with 270 in all departments. The Press-Enterprise in Riverside, Calif., was next with 120. The Providence Journal had 23. (Corporate did not provide a department-by-department assessment.)

Q: What are the financial terms of the layoffs?
A: 1.25 weeks for each year of service through 20 years; 2.5 weeks of severance for each year of service above 20 years; and a maximum of 35 weeks.

Q: How many additional people are targeted? A: At least 80 from the Dallas Morning News and the Press-Enterprise in Riverside, Calif. It is unclear how many will come from Providence, but that newspaper was 12 short of its 35-person target. If Corporate stays with that number in Providence, the grand total of job cuts will be 505.

Q: How many people are targeted at the DMN?
A: 50 in the departments of news, production, customer retention call center and Al Dia. That would make for a total of 320 job cuts.

Q: How many specifically in the newsroom?
A: It is unclear.

Q: How many at other A.H. Belo newspapers?
A: 30 at the Press-Enterprise in Riverside, Calif., and an undisclosed number at the Providence Journal subject to contractual obligations.

Q: When will the layoffs happen?
A: The start date is unclear. But these should be completed in mid- to late-October.

Q: How will they be decided?
A: It is unclear. One possibility is that newsroom managers will rely upon the new organizational charts presented a few weeks ago. Departments that met their buyout targets could be safe. Those that did not could have to cut involuntarily.

Q: How much money will this save?
A: $29 million on an annualized basis.

Q: What did CEO Robert Decherd say?
A: "These job actions are part of a restructuring of our newspaper operations that accelerates the allocation of resources to promising new print and online products while focusing our workforce on A. H. Belo's local content creation and sales capabilities. We greatly appreciate the dedication and service of all A. H. Belo employees who are leaving the Company under the voluntary severance program. I'm confident that we're taking the right steps to realign our resources to meet consumer and advertiser needs while maintaining the exceptional quality of A. H. Belo's journalistic products."

Q: What did publisher Jim Moroney say?
A: "These are challenging times that call for difficult decisions. Over the coming months we will work together to address the challenges ahead and focus on making a smooth transition to our newly-aligned organization. As we move forward, it is important that we all continue to focus on the areas that we each can control – our role in supporting the production of outstanding news and information publications and websites and serving our customers."


Anonymous said...

I appreciate the effort to be thorough, but what does it matter what Jim Moroney says? said...

We understand what you are attempting to say.

He is the boss, however. The sentiment in the newsroom is that corporate officers like him and CEO Robert Decherd are controlling the decision-making now more than ever. Newsroom managers have less authority than before.

As such, Jim is one of the only top managers speaking at all, albeit in a carefully constructed written statement. Most would want to know his thoughts. We are trying to be informational, therefore his comments are relevant.

More importantly, what he says reaches shareholders. Their purchase of shares determines the company's fate by and large. The share price has lost more than half of its value since the newspapers split from the television stations in February. That led Editor & Publisher to refer to the new A.H. Belo as "lightly regarded" on the Fitz & Jen blog Wednesday.

Employees need shareholders to find favorable statements from Jim if we want to avert more job cuts. Absent new money-making ventures, Corporate seems to believe the lone avenue to turn a profit is cutting expenses.

We all know how that is done.

Anonymous said...

It is important to have his statement. Sorry about that. It wasn't an attack on the blog.

Maybe shareholders will read the words instead of looking at the record.

When I see what "we" will do to make this thing work, I just sigh at how wee our "we" is. said...

We did not perceive it as an attack. Do not worry.

Your observation is a worthy one. It is a reason for publishing his statement.