Friday, August 01, 2008

Clarion-Ledger cuts 20 jobs; all reportedly laid off

Updated at 5:42 a.m. ET, Aug. 2. Announcing the cutback today, Publisher Larry Whitaker said fewer employees would have to do more work at the newspaper, known for its courageous civil rights reporting. The Clarion-Ledger will trim 20 jobs and continue freezing an unspecified number of open positions -- a total 5% of the workforce, Whitaker said in a letter.

He didn't identify the departments losing employees, or describe severance terms. But a Gannett Blog reader says these were all layoffs. "No buyouts,'' the tipster says.

Another reader wrote: "The cuts today in Jackson involved three from the newsroom. One of the ones cut had been here more than 10 years, another had been here more than 20 years. Within the last week, two people resigned, so I'm sure that lessened the impact on the newsroom. We're free-falling now."

Whitaker blamed the pullback on a shrinking local economy. "In nearly every advertising segment, our customers are reporting difficult times for their businesses. They are cutting back on print and online advertising, which has a direct impact on our business."

His letter continues: "I realize how hard this may sound. The employees who will no longer be with us are good people and fine employees who have served the company well,'' his letter said. "The decision to eliminate these jobs was very difficult; but, we can no longer operate with the same number of people while our business gets smaller in this down economy."

Speeding up the line
Whitaker told those surviving the 5% cut: "Am I saying that we will have to do the same or more with less? Unfortunately, the straight answer to that question is yes. Having fewer people, however, should not be a reason to offer poor customer service or shirk our public service journalism responsibility. In fact, it is imperative that we do the opposite."

Clarion-Ledger at a glance
Publisher: Larry Whitaker

Executive Editor: Ronnie Agnew

Founded: 1837

Joined Gannett: 1982

Employees: 490
Circulation: 84,955 daily; 96,843 Sunday

Earlier: The paper is home to ace reporter Jerry Mitchell, famous for bringing Ku Klux Klan members to justice, long after others gave up.

Related: My Gannett Blog Style Committee post sparked an unexpected round of comments on a different topic: rumors of wide Gannett layoffs. Join the debate, and read my response, here.

Cutbacks at your Gannett workplace? Please post your replies in the comments section, below. You may send memos and e-mails to gannettblog[at]gmail[dot-com]. See Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.

[Sources: circulation data, 2007 Annual Report; today's Clarion-Ledger, Newseum]


  1. The Clarion-Ledger also has one of the best editorial cartoonists in the biz: Marshall Ramsey, a two-time Pulitzer finalist.

    Marshall is LOVED dearly by the Greater Jackson community and around the state. His blog has a faithful following and he posts multiple times daily and during the weekend.

    This is sad because there are some really great people at this newspaper.

  2. The first announcement of several - more to come from other papers...

  3. maybe be a little more vague!

  4. Jerry and Marshall were not "on the list" thank God. But a lot of long-time people were. Sad day in Jackson, Miss.

  5. I have heard from a reliable source that the same in coming down the tubes in Greenville, but if we do it like they did in late 2007, we won't get the respect of a letter from the publisher nor the EE leaving his office for days, just the perp walk of journalists being escorted out of the newsroom in silence.

  6. who was on the list?

  7. What about Hattiesburg cuts?

  8. What does anyone here about Rochester?

  9. anon@2:43, would you expect anything different from your Publisher or Editor? Have you heard anythig about other departments in Greenville?

  10. @4:54: Honestly? No. I was surprised that the C-L's publisher at least addressed the issue. Ours avoids any discussion except amongst ourselves, which generally leads to more of that demoralization we all feel from time-to-time being here. Hell, at least they're having employee meetings. We just find people being escorted out and then silence. It's a cheap way out.

  11. Nothing announced at Hattiesburg - yet.

  12. Is there anything left to "get" in Hattiesburg?

    In regard to Jackson, Mr. Whitaker doesn't circulate in the building much and he hasn't jumped feet first into the community, but underneath his curmudgeon exterior is a heart.

    Like him or not, he does know when to extend professional courtesy even under difficult circumstances. There are many publishers out there who love their newspapers and care deeply for their people. Some just know how to convey their feelings better than others.

    Honestly, it can't be fun for any of them making and executing these corporate driven decisions. Though, I know, some of them do appear to revel in carnage.

    What I wish someone would study and provide an analysis on is the residual affect of these layoffs, and not just in Jackson. In other words, how many more jobs become open (or go dark) because those charged with taking on the additional work become overwhelmed and leave on their own volition?

  13. Remember the "cowboys on a dinosaur ranch" line? That was 1991.

    'Nuf said.

  14. Don't put all Gannett Publishers in the same bucket. I'm sure there are a lot of bad publishers, lord knows we have had our share with Kraft and Newhouse, but Whitaker is one of the best. Last year, Marshall Ramsey almost left the C-L for an OK newspaper. Whitaker stepped in personally, worked out a few details and Marshall stayed in Jackson with his award winning editorial cartoons. Not many people are aware of this, but I know this happened.

  15. To make matters worse -- at least for a company that prides itself on its diversity efforts -- of the three newsroom employees in Jackson who got the ax, two were African-Amerian and the third was a handicapped employee over 60.

  16. @4:37: Reminds me of Greenville. Last year two of our three layoffs were two African-Americans. All 3 were women.

  17. As far as "not putting all publishers in the same bucket," keeping Marshall Ramsey was a business decision, plain and simple. Getting rid of him would have been stupid for business because he is a well-known cartoonist that has built a successful brand in himself.

    Last year, Whitaker was sending out a notice about cutting Christmas bonuses (which had been widdled down to gift certificates to a local grocery store)while he was rennovating his office.

    He's a real saint.

  18. I can't understand why they couldn't cut the management fat from Hattiesburg and use the savings to beef up the Ledger. Isn't anyone responsible for looking at the big picture in the given areas?

  19. Rumor has it that those that survived the layoffs suffered cut in pay and benefits.


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