Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Hattiesburg | 6.5% pay cuts, instead of furloughs

That's according to a reader who says the cuts at Mississippi's Hattiesburg American are effective Feb. 7. Other U.S. newspapers may also have imposed wage reductions rather than furloughs.

The American's Monday-Saturday circulation is 12,876; Sunday is 16,082.

[Updated at 10:54 p.m. ET.] Following is the text of a memo General Manager Tracie Fowler sent today to employees:

Some of you may have heard that a division-wide furlough for Q1 has been announced today. The reason you have not received notice of this is that The Hattiesburg American is one of a few sites that have been asked to take an alternative route in conserving payroll expense. Let me explain:

With the exception of the short-term gains we saw in for the 18 months following Katrina, our top-line revenue has not grown for ten years. We remain one of the least profitable business units in the company, ranking 39th among 67 sites in profitability. Until we can reverse our top-line revenue trends, we must seek expense cuts that are more permanent than a furlough provides.

In other words, our cost reductions must reflect the fact that we need to lower our overall business expense, not just create a temporary way to add savings to meet a challenging quarter.

So instead of implementing a furlough, we will be reducing all employees' base pay by 6.5%, effective Monday, Feb. 7, 2010. You will not be required to take a furlough in addition to this. We recognize this payroll change will impact each of you very personally and do not take this action lightly.

However, it does allow us to lower our basic business costs in a way that helps secure our long-term viability as a franchise, as we work to grow our revenue.

I want to thank you for your personal sacrifice to assure our long-term profitability. We now must work on growing back revenue.

Tracie Fowler
General Manager
Hattiesburg American
825 North Main St.

Latest update: How furloughs helped spur $4 million in exec bonuses

Please post your replies in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, write jimhopkins[at]gmail[dot-com]; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the rail, upper right.


  1. Would not be surprise if corporate does a double dip, wage reduction and furlough. All one can do is to keep their fingers crossed.

  2. Does this pay cut apply to managers as well?

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. It's only going to get worse - without Brett Fahvre flying out of Hattiesburg International every week, the MassageHaus at the airport will have to close and there goes all their Sports advertising.

  5. I'd sure like to know where my site is on the profitability list.

  6. Following is an edited version of a comment posted at 1:44 a.m.:

    that's one of the coldest memos i've ever read.

  7. Sorry, but I'm tired of hearing, our site is doing great "from the Publisher", and then the next thing out of his mouth is but for the greater good of the company we must do furloughs. I think we need to shut some of these no profitable papers down for the good of the company. We tired of caring the dead weight and having our staffs cut in half because other sites can't cut it. Sorry for being so cold but how long can we keep you all afloat without pulling ourselves down.

  8. Jackson TN was also hit with a 6.5% pay cut for all employees. That works out to over 3 weeks of furlough. What do you get for the HUGE reduction in your pay. Absolutely nothing! I am sure every single person in Jackson and Hattiesburg would have much rather taken a week or two of furlough rather than a pay cut.
    With a furlough you get a week off - better than vacation - where you can not be reached or do any work. A true vacation.
    With a pay cut you get; less money and more work!
    The greed of the GCI corporate heads is truly a sin, not that they will lose a minute of sleep over the decision to cut wages in these two small markets.

  9. That's one of the bleakest memos I've ever read.

  10. And let's not forget that this represents not only a cut in today's pay.

    It also means a cut in tomorrow's Social Security, Gannett's future contributions to 401k plans, the ability of workers to maintain their 401k savings, a reduction in life insurance premiums that the company pays, and comes on top of increased premiums to Gannett's self-insurance program.

    For Gannett this is a win, win, win.

    The shame is that the execs continue to rake in all the bennies and cash they can stuff into their pockets.

    How's this for a slogan: "Gannett, a company that enriches a few at the expense of many."

  11. If Hattiesburg is 39th, and one of the least profitable, what does 40 through 67 look like?

  12. Jim, can you obtain a list?

  13. The key phrase in Tracie's note is "least profitable." The American is making money, just not as much as Gannett wants -- and has been making less money each year. But every Gannett site is making less money than the year before. Detroit, for example, set its 2010 NIBT goal at Minus 4 Percent, meaning that it's goal was to still be in the red -- but not as much -- by December. The irony about Jackson TN is that it is more profitable than it was last year, yet it too is taking the pay cut. A look at that Profitability List -- now held only by the Group Presidents because of leaks to this blog -- would make Tracie feel much better: Her site ranks higher in profitability than The Tennessean, her group site.

  14. That very confidential list is called the "Cost & Statistical Summary." It would appear that Anonymous@10:31 a.m. has access to it.

    I mentioned the summary in this July 28 post. The last time I saw a copy of the list was in November 2008, which lead to this jaw-dropping post -- one of the most widely quoted on Gannett Blog.

    Regarding the list, folks know where to reach me: jimhopkins[at]gmail[dot]com

  15. You're right on the mark, 10:31 a.m. It's not that the papers aren't earning, it's that they're not earning as much as corporate would like.

    I wonder what the heck Martore and Dubow and Dickey are going to do when they run out of people to cut and furlough? Maybe they'll cut the pay at ALL OF THE COMMUNITY PAPER SITES. Ten percent is a nice round number.

    Meanwhile the corporate hogs get fatter everyday!

  16. I left Gannett and the newspaper business late in 2009. After 30 years in the print news business,it was a frightening step into a completely different line of work. I have not regretted the move ONE SINGLE TIME.

    I feel sick for my former co-workers still toiling away endlessly for a company that quite frankly could care less about their well-being and is only concerned with tomorrow's stock price and the next quarterly or annual stockholders' report.

    I now work for a company that values my individual contribution to the team effort. I have gone back to school to work on an MBA, a degree for which my new employer is paying. I have a rising pension plan. I am allowed to take earned vacations. In short, I am living the kind of life I never thought possible.

    My only advice to my former Gannett colleagues is to look around and see what else is out there. There is life after newspapers. Go find out for yourself.

  17. Its a sad sad day for the employees at Hattiesburg American. The ones that remain there are dedicated and doing double the work for now less money than before. I hurt for them and their families. Many of those employees have been there for many many years and cannot just walk out. Most cannot get a position paying what 10+ years has given them there. I pray for them and hope they can find something better for them before they get the ax and get stuck making minimum wage after multiple years of dedication to a newspaper and general manager expects them to be thankful they even still have a job which is what they are told on a daily basis and they are not sure if they will be affected by the furlough in Q3. Sad.

  18. Hey 8:18 what happened to being a team player... Its not good for anyone but because you arent as bad off as the next sight you all should be rewarded? What about the 6.5 percent loss Hburg just got. Should they take that as punishment? How is it fair to say who gets a furlough and who gets to spend the next 4 years trying to earn raises it took them 4 years to get in the first place. They just did a step back in time. Its not a time to be selfish and point fingers. They other sites after 39--- do you expect them to take 7, 14, 31 percent pay cuts?? How about Dickey give back that $410,000 bonus he received in 2009 and keep some staff members employed. That would take balls he doesnt have!

  19. Many thanks to the hard and dangerous work done by employees of the Hattiesburg American during and after Hurricane Katrina. You risked your lives and left your families in an effort to keep local residents informed as to what was happening.

    Gannett says thank you with a massive pay cut.

  20. Yeah, Skippy Haik gets publisher of the Year for staying 2 weeks during Katrina. She was not the only one. Many stayed there during Katrina and for many days, weeks at a time too. MOST of them have been laid off as well as her. JOB WELL DONE! BRAVO!

  21. Why are all the little people (non corporate) in Gannett so chicken shit as to not even think about, let alone do what their brothers and sisters are doing across the pond by staging strikes. Will no one take a stand before they've taken all away from you and they walk away with all you're giving up to them.

    Talk, talk, talk why not walk the walk.

  22. You answered your own question, 12. The important words are chicken and shit.

  23. Well furlough or pay cut is better than no job ask the Tulsa people in a month when that center closes.

  24. Hey 4--- that attitude and comment is what the managers and directors are saying to the staff... Yeah right... until it happens to you! Be thankful you have a job when you have busted your asses for 10 years for them to take 3 years of raises away for all that hard work thats been piled on you cause everyone else has been laid off and raises have been low because of economy. Costs keep going up and our pay is going in reverse. But - hey.... just be thankful you have a job whether you make enough to eat or feed and cloth your kids; just be thankful you have a job.

  25. Hattiesburg and Jackson, TN probably took paycuts rather than furloughs because the staffing is so tight they can't have that many people off and still get the work done.

  26. Its worse by having pay cut by 6.5%. Cant get them back at the end of the year. Its worse than a furlough. Plus will most likely have to take a furlough in 3rd Qt.


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