Sunday, September 28, 2008

Post-Dispatch lays off 20 more; contract negotiation ends

Things are getting rough(er) at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The paper laid off 20 people on Friday; 17 were from the newsroom.

Romenesko posted a memo from top editors:

It's been a difficult day. We eliminated 17 positions Friday.

We are reducing the size of our Washington Bureau to one immediately after the November election. Bill Lambrecht remains our bureau chief. Phil Dine and Deirdre Shesgreen have been offered transfers to St. Louis.

We are eliminating the positions of all of our news clerks in the D Classification (Robert Douglas, Bryant Ingram, John Mertzlufft, Coddy Murray, Keith Schildroth, Cyndi Waters, Pam Williams).

We are eliminating the positions of three news clerks in the C classification.

We are eliminating the position of our Jefferson City assistant (Linda Sommers).

We are eliminating the position of two reporters, one copy editor and one designer.

Under the Guild contract, staff members with more seniority in the classifications affected can volunteer to retire or resign and, in effect, take the place of those whose positions were eliminated. That's why we did not disclose some names. Please contact Gwen Jacobson or Bruce Benson in HR by Friday, Oct. 10 If you are interested in volunteering to leave.

We also are eliminating the positions of two assistant metro/business editors (Ed Kohn and Rod Hicks)

It's been a difficult year for our industry and the Post-Dispatch, and a very difficult economy. We are sorry to have to give you this news. It's not the kind of note we are fond of writing. Please take care of each other.

Arnie and Pam

A memo from publisher Kevin Mowbray said, well, nothing:
St. Louis, MO. (September 26, 2008)
St. Louis Post-Dispatch Publisher Kevin Mowbray

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch today announced a work force reduction of 20 positions. The areas affected are production, marketing, and newsroom.

"These are unprecedented times that require us to reduce costs caused as a result of the national economic slump," said St. Louis Post-Dispatch Publisher Kevin Mowbray. "However, even with these reductions, we will give our customers the best print and online news products in the St. Louis metropolitan area."

Just last month, they laid off 18 people and outsourced most of those jobs to India. Now advertisers are boycotting the paper because of the outsourced jobs.

But there's more. As previously mentioned, the St. Louis Newspaper Guild and the Post-Dispatch had moved to expedited bargaining on a new contract. That fell apart Thursday:
The beginning of the end came early during talks when the company first raised the possibility of layoffs in an attempt to scare the Guild into accepting a bad deal.

The company, on an almost daily basis, then incrementally raised the layoff threat level from “layoffs are in the fiscal ’09 budget,” to “layoffs will happen Friday (9/26) if we don’t get a deal,” to “layoffs are going to happen anyway” regardless of a deal.

The union met Saturday -- anyone have an update?

Friday, September 26, 2008

More readers, more layoffs

Highlights from the official readership and online use press release from HQ:
  • More people visit Lee websites.

  • More people read Lee newspapers.

  • More people read the paper and online versions.

  • More people read the online version and never touch the paper.

  • More 18- to 29-year-olds read Lee papers. More visit Lee websites. More read Lee papers and visit Lee websites.

  • More 30- to 39-year-olds read Lee papers. More visit Lee websites. More read Lee papers and visit Lee websites.

  • More 40- to 59-year-olds read Lee papers. More visit Lee websites. More read Lee papers and visit Lee websites.

  • More people 60 and older read Lee papers. More visit Lee websites. More read Lee papers and visit Lee websites.

Everything's coming up roses!

Except circulation is still falling. Revenue is down. Lee's still more than $1 billion in debt. And layoffs are still taking place.

Montana weeklies merge

The Valley Irrigator in Newell, Mont.; the Belle Fourche Post and Belle Fourche Bee in Belle Fourche, Mont., will merge, publishing Wednesdays as the Butte County Post starting Oct. 22. Previously, the Bee published on on Saturdays, the Post and Irrigator published on Wednesdays. The reason behind the merger:

“As economic conditions continue to deteriorate resulting in reduced advertising spending and coupled with unprecedented increases in fuel and newsprint costs, it is critical that we reorganize the publishing processes of our weekly newspapers in the Northern Hills communities,” said Brad Slater, publisher of the Rapid City Journal which owns and operates the Newell and Belle Fourche newspapers.

Offices in Newell and Belle Fourche will stay open, and officials say delivery will not change. No word on staff changes or layoffs. (Moving one publication from Saturday to combine it with two others on Wednesday though? You'd think something would be changing in that configuration.)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Post-Dispatch union contract update

An update from the St. Louis Newspaper Guild:

The Guild and the company met on Monday, Sept. 15, to begin early and expedited bargaining. The tone was positive on both sides.

The Guild made several requests for information from the company. Lee has asked for a blackout on specifics during negotiations. The Guild has agreed to this in order to respect the company’s need for confidentiality of certain proprietary information.

Our top priority is job security. The Guild has taken a strong stance and will negotiate hard for the best possible contract. The Negotiating Committee will not bring any agreement to members unless we believe they will strongly support it. The Guild’s goal is to present our members with a contract they have reason to vote for.

Lee wants to cut costs. If Guild members have any suggestions on how to achieve this — or how to generate revenue — please contact the Guild office or any of the members of the Negotiating Committee.

Who will win out here? Lee's efforts to further cut costs? Or the union's efforts to keep jobs?

New editor at Beatrice Daily Sun

Patrick Ethridge took over as the new editor of the Beatrice Daily Sun in Beatrice, Neb., on Monday. Ethridge replaced Harold Campbell, who took a job at the non-Lee Chanute Tribune in Chanute, Kan.

What do you know about Ethridge?

Lee/ partnership

Lee is part of a partnership with real estate website Other newspaper chains are joining too: Hearst, MediaNews and E.W. Scripps. The goal: More money for web ads.

What do you think -- good idea? Bad idea? Will it matter?

Nevada publisher leaving

Rhonda Zuraff, publisher of the Elko Daily Free Press in Elko, Nev., is leaving her job in October. Zuraff has been publisher since 2004.

Lee sponsors tax summit

Lee Enterprises was the sponsor being a Sept. 11 tax summit in Helena, Mont., to "discuss the possibility of drafting and getting the 2009 Legislature to pass a local option tax." (The story says the summit is sponsored by The Billings Chamber of Commerce/Convention and Visitors Bureau, but Missoulapolis points out that an e-mail from the Billings Chamber says: "Many thanks to Lee Newspapers of Montana for sponsoring this Tax Summit.")

Lee's business model doesn't seem to be working -- does it that make sense that the company sponsor a tax summit?

Stock price drops

Anyone notice that Lee's stock price is below $2.50? Find the latest stock price in the sidebar on the right.

Lee was dropped from the S&P Midcap 400 last week.

26 more layoffs in Montana, Wyoming, Oregon

In Montana, the Billings Gazette laid off 7 full-time workers -- 2 in the newsroom, 2 in advertising, 2 in production, 1 in circulation -- and 2 part-time production workers last week.

In the same state, the Montana Standard in Butte laid off 7. The Helena Independent-Record laid off 5. In Wyoming, the Casper Star-Tribune laid off 4. In Oregon, Western World laid off 1.

An article in the Gazette quotes Lee VP for publishing Mike Gulledge (also the Gazette's publisher) saying Lee is adopting a "regional approach to providing financial services." Of course, there's been no such announcement -- or mention of layoffs -- on Lee's corporate site. blogger Erica Smith -- a Lee employee at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch -- called out Lee for not reporting layoffs. She also does the Paper Cuts site that lists layoffs and buyouts across the industry.

See previous Lee layoffs

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Ravalli Republic lays off 6

The Ravalli Republic in Hamilton, Mont., laid off 6 employees -- 3 full-time, 3 part-time -- and hired reporter John Cramer, who was just laid off from the Missoulian as part of a restructuring plan at the Republic.

This follows other layoffs at Lee papers. New West says more are coming in Montana: Specifically at the Helena Independent-Record, the Billings Gazette and the Montana Standard. Let me know if you hear anything.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Post-Dispatch lays off 18

Lee ended August with more layoffs: 18 at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Jobs were cut in the newsroom, production and human resources. Putting the paper together just got harder with the loss of production jobs, a sports photography editor, copy chief and night metro editor.

That's 66 layoffs companywide in August.