by Mark Hengel
Posted 5/4/2009 06:10 pm
Updated 11 months ago
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette began a second round of layoffs Monday, with 16 people, all apparently newsroom employees, losing their jobs.
Following is the e-mail Democrat-Gazette Editor Griffin Smith sent to the staff at 4:30 p.m. today:
To the Democrat-Gazette Newsroom staff:The paper cut between 50 and 60 employees in February. The newsroom cut seven staffers in March and implemented a furlough policy in February. Newsroom employees must take one day of unpaid leave every four weeks as part of the furlough policy. Cost-cutting measures will remain in effect despite the latest cuts. The announcement came during a staff meeting Monday morning.
The layoffs announced today are concluded. All 16 people subject to layoff have now been individually notified.
To them and to the rest of you, thank you for your understanding.
The current economy has hurt the newspaper, which is owned by Wehco Media Inc. of Little Rock. The paper's 2008 expenses totaled about $100 million, General Manager Paul Smith said.
"With revenue off significantly, we have no choice but to reduce expenses," Smith said. Revenue from print and online fell 22.1 percent in the first quarter of 2009 and 13.2 percent for the 2008 calendar year, Paul Smith said.
The poor economy has been "pretty widespread, and it sure hasn't missed us," Smith said. Smith declined to provide revenue totals.
"We'll have some more staff reductions until the economy improves," he said. Cuts are taking place at the paper's Little Rock headquarters and in northwest Arkansas, where Wehco publishes the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Managers were informing employees Monday.
Affected employees will receive pay through May 18 and may choose to work through the date, according to a Democrat-Gazette report posted shortly after Monday morning's 10:30 a.m. meeting.
Wehco Media owns 12 daily newspapers and 12 weekly newspapers in Arkansas, Texas, Tennessee and Missouri, including the Chattanooga Times Free Press, which laid off employees Wednesday. Walter E. Hussman Jr. of Little Rock is the owner of Wehco.
Democrat-Gazette management asked employees to voluntarily cut work weeks from 40 hours to 32 in January.
Smith said the paper has "a little more than" 1,000 employees statewide and 250 newsroom employees. The paper also employs about 200 part-timer staff members and 1,000 paper carriers, who are independent contractors.
Many media outlets have suffered in the economy. KATV-TV, Channel 7, cut about 20 staff members in January, though the company would not confirm the number. Stephens Media Group of Las Vegas has laid off employees at several of its Arkansas newspapers, including The Morning News of Springdale, which cut staff in April.
Smith said he believes the paper is in a good position to rebound once the economy recovers.
The Democrat-Gazette has a 63 percent penetration rate in metro Little Rock, he said. The newspaper recently raised its monthly subscription rate to $15.
"We still have the highest penetration of any metro paper on Sunday in our core market. I'm confident that when the economy returns, we'll be fine," Smith said.
The Democrat-Gazette shares revenue information with about 20 other Midwestern dailies, he said. On a monthly basis, the papers share the growth or decline of advertising revenue, Smith said. The Democrat-Gazette had the smallest declines in the "Misery Index" — as it's known, — he said.
"Through the first three months of 2008, we've had the smallest loss of the group," Smith said. "But it's still significant."