In another round of job cuts, McClatchy Company (NYSE: MNI) offered 450 employees buyouts – or early retirement offers. That represents about 10 percent of McClatchy staff. About half of those employees from newspapers across the country accepted the offers, reports Miami New Times. Employees who were 55 or older and had worked at their newspapers for 10 years or more received the one-time buyout offer.
Among the casualties are 10 employees from the Miami Herald, approximately 12 reporters from the Kansas City Star, and an undetermined number of employees from Charlotte, Raleigh, Fort Worth and other newspapers in the 30 communities McClatchy serves. Poynter reports that, last August, McClatchy cut 3.5 percent of its staff, or close to 140 employees.
“The accumulated experience, talent and true professionalism that will leave our day-to-day press rooms, offices and newsrooms is enormous and will be greatly missed,” McClatchy CEO Craig Forman said.
According to Jeanne Segal, director of public relations and communications for the 162-year-old McClatchy Company, said vacant positions may or may not be filled and that some latitude would be left to the individual newspapers to decide how to best staff their organizations. Segal said the company did not expect 100 percent participation in the buyout offers.
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March 4, 2021 • Noon Eastern
In a letter to employees addressed “Dear Everyone” and shared by Miami New Times, Forman confirmed that close to half of employees offered the buyouts have accepted them.
“As much as this offer was a voluntary, optional opportunity, I know that these past two weeks have been challenging, not only for the colleagues weighing their choice but also for those of us anticipating the voluntary retirements of longtime co-workers and friends,” wrote Forman.
“It goes without saying that this transformation is difficult and the past two weeks illustrates, in a very human way, the emotional strain of our transformation. The accumulated experience, talent and true professionalism that will leave our day-to-day press rooms, offices and newsrooms is enormous and will be greatly missed,” Forman added.
“I said before and repeat now, we have the utmost gratitude and respect for our colleagues who have opted to take this voluntary opportunity. They are a devoted and integral part of our company and have contributed to an important stage in our transformation. I know I speak for all of us that their presence, knowledge, and professionalism will be missed,” said Forman.
On behalf of the organization, Forman thanked the employees who rejected the buyout and to the thousands of remaining employees who will have to pick up the pieces in the aftermath. He said, though painful, this transformation will help McClatchy invest in new technology platforms to more seamlessly acquire and retain customers and in possible new colleagues.
“To paraphrase a great leader, we choose to do this not because it is easy. But because it matters,” Forman said. “These efforts are building the future of our company, and its role in our communities – and in the future of our republic.”
Ouch. There is no easy way to minimize the sting of media buyouts or layoffs. They have been happening regularly over the last dozen or so years, and they have created media gaps, or news deserts, across the country. While we can understand the business need to reduce expenses, Forman admitted in his letter to “everyone” that the cost savings would be invested in new technology platforms and new colleagues “who may well join us in the future.” How can you say, “let’s say good-bye to valued colleagues” in one breath and then “we might replace you soon” in the next?
The “Dear Everyone” stings a little too. Forman makes a point to thank colleagues and friends. Wouldn’t that have been a better opening? Saying “Dear Everyone” is a slap in the face because Forman didn’t take the time to come up with a more appropriate, more personal salutation.
And while I’m on a rant, using for the “future of our republic” as a reason to cut 200+ jobs is not a sound argument. A democratic society depends on checks and balances like the fourth estate the media represents. How can we grow a stronger republic by eliminating 200+ voices? Maybe one media buyout won’t make a significant difference in ensuring government transparency, but when coupled with all the other sweeping media job cuts and layoffs, this is concerning. Forman and McClatchy took things in the opposite direction, potentially weakening the republic, not strengthening it.