Hit hard by revenue declines related to the coronavirus outbreak, Tribune Publishing, the owner of Chicago Tribune, The Baltimore Sun, The Virginian-Pilot and the New York Daily News and other newspapers, is implementing permanent salary reductions effective April 19, reports Poynter. Non-union employees with a base salary of $67,000 or more will see pay cuts of 2% to 10%. The percentage reduction will be done on a sliding scale based on income. This includes executive pay and pay to the organization’s board of directors. Tribune Publishing CEO Terry Jimenez, for example, will give up two weeks of pay as well as an overall pay cut of 10%.
Employees who don’t want to take a pay cut may opt for a severance package as outlined in the company’s employee handbook instead. They must choose that option by April 17. If they do, their final day of employment will be April 24. Employees represented by unions may also see cuts, but those reductions have not yet been determined, Poynter says.
Jimenez made the announcement in a memo to employees. Here is an excerpt. Visit Poynter.org to read the entire memo.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is a crisis unlike anything we have seen in our lifetimes. These are uniquely challenging times for our own health and well-being as well as for the global economy and the businesses in our communities. Through these tough circumstances, we continue to create meaningful journalism and foster relationships between our advertising partners and our readers,” Jimenez said.
“Despite strong readership and engagement to the work we are doing, the current business climate poses challenges for everyone. Along with most of our industry peers, we are experiencing a negative business impact as a result of the pandemic. This is particularly true in our print advertising business, where most of the local businesses that we normally partner with are effectively shut down. In the wake of these revenue declines, we must take drastic actions to better position ourselves for the future. To offset these sharp declines, we must reduce costs,” continued Jimenez.
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“This was an extremely tough decision, and we understand and appreciate the impact this could have on you and your family. Many of our print and digital peers have taken even more drastic measures. Please know that we have taken a number of other actions to reduce our expenses with outside vendors, occupancy expenses and a targeted number of employee reductions,” Jimenez said. “We made this decision to have the least impact on our employees overall and it will permit us to continue carrying out our mission during this critical time. We continue to assess the economic environment and will consider other measures to help us address the shortfall in advertising revenue.”
The Los Angeles Times, who used to be part of Tribune Publishing before being bought by billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong in 2018, also announced cuts this week, says The New York Times. The Los Angeles Times’ parent company will furlough 40 non-newsroom, non-union employees and reduce the pay of senior managers to make up for advertising revenue which is virtually nonexistent right now. At this time, the furloughs are expected to last as long as 16 weeks, but they could become permanent.
Digital media outlet Vox Media may be furloughing 100 employees later this week, CNBC says. Three-month furloughs are reportedly on the table, as are pay cuts from top earners. To help support their work, Vox is currently asking for contributions from readers with monthly contributions starting at $7 or one-time contributions. Such contributions are not considered charitable contributions but could help Vox remain free and support their work.
According to The New York Times, approximately 28,000 workers at American news outlets have laid off or furloughed staff or cut the pay of their employees.
This is an absolutely brutal time to be in the news business. The American public and American businesses are clamoring for information, but news outlets are struggling to keep up. Because businesses can’t afford to advertise, news outlets are losing valuable revenue that helps them produce quality journalism. They are having to cut much-needed staff, because they can’t afford to keep the lights on. There does not seem to be an easy answer. The news industry has been struggling for more than a decade, but this might just be the death blow.