Monday, August 18, 2008

Gannett starts issuing pink slips: 600 jobs at stake; employees tally historic losses; blog updates all day

In one of the industry's biggest mass layoffs, Gannett today begins notifying as many as 600 newspaper employees nationwide that they're losing their jobs -- just as thousands of other newly unemployed newspaper workers flood an already strained economy.

The layoffs, confirmed on Thursday, are on top of 400 other newspaper jobs GCI is simultaneously eliminating through attrition, as the faltering top publisher races to shore up profits amid plunging advertising revenues and a slumping stock price. "We are all in the same boat," one employee says. "Let’s help each other get through this."

The combined 1,000 lost jobs are 3% of the community newspaper division's total employment. That division employs more than 30,000 in the U.S., or about 65% of Gannett's global workforce. The division's 84 papers include titles such as the 250-employee Town Talk in Alexandria, La., which is laying off three workers, and The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Ky., cutting loose 15 of more than 1,000 employees.

Today caps four days of anxious waiting for 600 workers, who get the bad news this morning, and in days ahead. They will receive severance of one week's pay for each year of service, capped at 52 weeks, plus medical coverage for the length of their severance period, according to Corporate's layoff instructions to publishers.

Adding to worker worries, Corporate warned that these layoffs may not be the last. "If advertising and circulation revenues continue to decline, further payroll reductions may be necessary,'' the company instructed publishers to tell employees.

Gannett flagship USA Today, the nation's No. 1 circulation newspaper, has so far avoided cuts in this round. But employees aren't off the hook: Publisher Craig Moon has scheduled a companywide staff meeting for Aug. 27 -- prompting speculation that he'll announce layoffs or more buyout offers.

This week's layoffs rival the mass dismissal nearly 17 years ago of about 700 Gannett employees at The Arkansas Gazette. GCI closed that paper amid up to $30 million in annual losses during a bruising newspaper war it lost in Little Rock.

More on Gannett Blog
  • Roll call grows: Based on more than 150 contributions through the weekend, readers are tallying paper-by-paper layoffs.
  • USA Today in spotlight: Pressure builds on Publisher Craig Moon to sacrifice jobs or make other cuts in time for an Aug. 27 staff meeting.
  • Advice for laid-off: Employees who left in layoffs or buyouts over the past year tell you what to do now. "Good luck, and God bless to all,'' says an ex-operating committee member.
  • Stricken expressions: Employees describe the mood in dozens of workplaces. (I'll send the post link to a board of directors member who monitors this blog.)
  • Shrinking numbers: Pegged at 46,100 at the start of the year, GCI's workforce now faces a record annual decline in its size.
  • Investors react: How will the stock perform when trading resumes at 9:30 a.m. ET today? Shares closed Friday at $20.65 -- up 14.6% for the week, clobbering the S&P-500 Index.
News tips, publisher's memos, other reaction: Please post replies in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, write gannettblog[at]gmail[dot-com]; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.

[Image: today's Town Talk front page, Newseum]


  1. "one week's pay for each year of service, capped at 52"

    Why is it capped at 52? Has anyone worked longer than 52 years and if so is it really going to break the budget to pay them for that 53rd week?

  2. Any truth that the Cherry Hill publisher and ME decided to take this week off?

  3. Walt, the Cherry Hill publisher, is here today. The mood here is grim. After worrying all weekend we just want it to be over with.

  4. Are the pink slips coming out on the 20th, or do they need to be delivered by the 20th?

  5. Our EE just high-tailed it for the week. What a great show of support and leadership.

  6. Is Westchester the only paper that did their layoff on the day of the announcement?


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