April 10: A source tells DFMworkers that the Reading Eagle, which Alden’s Heath Freeman claims to have “saved,” has laid off 19 people. Ten were from the newsroom. Nine additional layoffs were in other departments, no details yet.
April 6: More furloughs and layoffs were announced Monday. At the Bay Area News Group, which includes the San Jose Mercury News and East Bay Times, 34 employees were placed on unpaid furloughs — 21 at San Jose and 13 at the East Bay Times. The furloughs vary by position, with some people being furloughed one week a month for three months and others taking two full weeks. In addition, two advertising employees were permanently laid off.
This story will continue to be be updated as more news comes in.
By Julie Reynolds
At the Denver Post, the newsroom staff has shrunk by 70 percent in just a few years. But on Friday, when those remaining believed there was nothing left to cut, thirteen new layoff notices were issued to NewsGuild-represented employees.
Four were newsroom employees and nine worked in other areas of the paper.
News of layoffs and unpaid furloughs at the Post and other MNG newspapers rippled across the country Thursday and Friday, even as newsrooms noted dramatic leaps in online readership due to coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.
MNG, formerly known as Digital First Media, is controlled by the hedge fund Alden Global Capital, which has been gutting its papers for eight years. The chain made no public announcement of the cuts, which appear to affect nearly every newspaper in the chain.
From the Boston Herald, where at least five were laid off, to small towns in Northern California, where employees were put on unpaid furloughs for an indefinite time, the news trickled out on social media and in a few news reports such as this, from the Boston Globe:
“On Thursday, at least five workers were laid off at the already much-reduced Boston Herald, including a Boston Bruins beat reporter who said she was told a half-hour before a scheduled interview. And a journalist at the Lowell Sun tweeted Thursday that the paper had laid off at least one staffer. Both papers are owned by the same hedge fund-backed company that is infamous in the news industry for its aggressive cost-cutting.”
The Globe story noted that “the appetite for local news has become enormous.”
At the Kingston (New York) Daily Freeman, four NewsGuild members, including two reporters, were laid off Thursday. Guild representative Patricia Doxsey said the layoffs came as a surprise after staff were told on March 25 that the paper “was healthy.”
“But here we are seven days later and they’ve laid off four Guild members,” she said. When management was asked if any non-Guild members were also let go, she said she was told the company was “not at liberty” to discuss the matter.
“We’re disappointed at a time when it’s critical to get news out,” Doxsey said. “Reporters are doing their best to keep their communities informed during this pandemic.
“Now we’re four reporters who cover a county the size of Rhode Island, as well as portions of neighboring counties. All you have to do is look at our papers to see the kind of work we’ve been doing.”
At The Monterey Herald in California, the already bare-bones newsroom was cut further, with one sports reporter, who staffers said had been reassigned to help with COVID-19 coverage, was furloughed until April 30, along with an advertising account executive.
Farther north in the state, sources told DFMworkers that the Chico Enterprise-Record furloughed two sports writers, including “ one reporter who was awarded a CNPA first-place prize 15 minutes before learning of his fate,” according to a Tweet from Travis Souders.
Also in Northern California, unconfirmed reports said a classified sales rep, an office manager and two editorial employees at the Ukiah Daily Journal were furloughed, leaving only one reporter. Two others were reportedly furloughed at the Fort Bragg Advocate and Mendocino Beacon.
Unconfirmed reports have come in from staff at MNG’s Southern California News Group, where the company owns a string of papers that include the Orange County Register and the LA Daily News. Sources there say around six newsroom were laid off across the group, and that all sports and features staff were furloughed for at least two weeks. The sources said that the news group’s editor Frank Pine told employees that freelancers have also been cut and that furloughed employees could not use their paid sick or vacation time to replace the unpaid time off. Instead, they were told to apply for unemployment benefits.
DFMworkers has obtained a copy of the furlough agreement given to some employees in California. It states that the furloughs are “expected to last through the end of California’s state stay-at-home (shelter in place) or based on business conditions (emphasis added).”
Staff at some small papers said they suspect the furloughs will later turn into layoffs.
NewsGuild members at MNG’s Philadelphia-area cluster of papers recently agreed to extend their previous contract, and no layoffs were announced there. The company has offered buyouts to both Guild members and management, however. Bill Ross, the NewsGuild’s executive director for the region said the company is honoring its collective bargaining agreement of no layoffs for one year.