Sunday, March 1, 2009

Commercial Appeal to Lay Off 23 More Guild Employees

Posted By on Sun, Mar 1, 2009 at 4:00 AM

Mark Watson, president of the Tri-Council, an association of The Commercial Appeal's three struggling unions, is trying to remain calm and realistic in the face of some very bad news. Of the 23 Guild-covered employees the CA is laying off on Monday, 18 will come from the editorial department. That's the side of the building where Watson, a past president of the Newspaper Guild, is employed.

"That could be 20 percent," [of the editorial department] he estimates roughly, not entirely trusting his numbers. "I don't know exactly ... 18 [people] is a big cut."

According to Watson, there has still been no discussion of reducing the number of days a week the CA publishes. "That's been done in Detroit," he says, noting that in December the Detroit Free Press and The Detroit Morning News cut back to three days for full publication and home delivery. Both papers announced a shift to online-first reporting and continue to offer a smaller newsstand-only issue on days when there is no home delivery.

The bad news keeps piling up for Scripps. The company froze dividend payments to its stockholders last fall. Then the CA cut 9 percent of its total staff. Two weeks ago Scripps announced the suspension of matching funds for 401-k plans and revealed in a memo to all employees that Senior executives had begun 2009 with 5 to 15 percent salary cuts.

News of more layoffs at the CA comes in conjunction with Friday's shuttering of Scripps' Pulitzer-prize winning Denver property, The Rocky Mountain News, a 150-year old daily paper.

"We understand that things are grim," Watson says.

The Newspaper Guild is planning a March workshop to help the newly unemployed find work.

-- Chris Davis

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