Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Baltimore Sun lays off 61 newsroom employees

By Associated Press

BALTIMORE — The Baltimore Sun has laid off 61 people in its newsroom, including veteran editors and managers, columnists, photographers and designers.

Maryland’s largest newspaper laid off managerial employees at the end of the day Tuesday, and notified union-represented employees Wednesday afternoon, said Renee Mutchnik, a spokeswoman for the Baltimore Sun Media Group.

Twenty-one managers and 40 staffers represented by the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild were laid off, Mutchnik and union leaders said. The union cuts included one employee who volunteered to be laid off.

The cuts represent about 27 percent of the newsroom staff at The Sun, which is owned by Chicago-based Tribune Co.

Among the managers who lost their jobs were one of the deputy managing editors, the opinion page editor, the op-ed editor and the copy desk chief. Many had decades of experience at The Sun.

Tribune is operating under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Real estate mogul Sam Zell took on a $13 billion debt load when he purchased the company in 2007. Union leaders and staffers said the debt was the motivation behind the cuts.

"Sam Zell took a gamble when he bought the Tribune Company," said John McIntyre, the laid-off copy desk chief. "He thought he could handle all that debt and could bring a fresh approach that would make the deal work, and it was a miscalculation."

Mutchnik said the cuts were part of a broad reshaping of The Sun’s newsroom that’s meant to eliminate distinctions between print and online content.

"We are repositioning our newsroom to be a 24-hour, local newsgathering media company. We will be more effectively gathering our content and distributing it across all our platforms," she said. "This is our plan for the future, for our success, not just for our survival."

She stressed that few reporters were laid off. "We are committed to having the same number of feet on the street as we had before," Mutchnik said.

But some in the newsroom said the cuts would irreparably damage the product.

"The newspaper is just imploding," said Chuck Weiss, a photo assignment editor who was laid off. "They’re getting rid of everybody who has institutional knowledge. The paper has been diminished over the years, and I think this time they really cut it to the bone."

The Sun has reduced its newsroom staff by about 60 percent in the past 10 years, according to the union, but most of the cuts were accomplished through buyouts and attrition.

Boston Globe Unions Locked In Tough Talks

By Christine McConville

Pressmen told to save $2M

Various Boston Globe labor unions are meeting with management this week, but compromises may be hard to come by.

“We’re working to reach an agreement, but it’s very difficult,” said Martin Callaghan, president of the Boston Newspaper Printing Pressman Union No. 3.

The Pressmen's union has been asked to trim $2.2 million, about 15 percent, from its budget. The request from management comes on the heels of a larger cost-saving agreement.

“We just ratified an agreement at the end of 2008 that saved the company $8.5 million,” Callaghan said yesterday.

The union eliminated 42 jobs through a voluntary buyout program and shrunk its ranks to 92 active members.

“We agreed to those cuts a few months back because management said, ‘You need to do this to save the paper,’ ” a member of the pressmen’s union said yesterday. “Now they are coming back and saying the same thing. It’s like the boy who cried wolf.”

Today, representatives of the Globe’s 250-member mailers union meets with management. The mailers have been told to trim $5 million from their budget. And tomorrow, leaders of the 210-member truck drivers union are expected to hold talks.

Meanwhile, the Times Co. reached a tentative pay-cut deal with a union at its namesake newspaper. The Newspaper Guild of New York agreed to a 5 percent wage cut through the end of the year to save $4.5 million, Reuters reported.

Nonunion employees at the paper and other Times Co. properties including the Globe had their pay cut earlier this month.

Union leaders mum on talks as dissension spreads at Boston Globe

Boston Globe Guild leaders - facing the looming deadline of a possible Friday shutdown - have clamped a cone of silence on negotiations with their New York Times [NYT] overlords, hoping to plug leaks even as feuding factions threaten to rip the union apart.

“We remain troubled by the public dissemination of what may or may not be accurate representations of confidential negotiations,” Boston Newspaper Guild president Dan Totten told the Herald in an e-mailed statement.

“It violates a level of trust that is needed for successful negotiations, and is detrimental to both the New York Times Company, and to all members of the Guild,” he said.

Totten’s statement comes amid ever-heightened tensions inside the Globe newsroom, where some employees have been questioning the guild’s bargaining tactics in do-or-die talks.

There’s also mounting frustration among reporters, who spend their days collecting information, that they aren’t receiving frequent updates on the labor bosses’ closed-door meetings.
“The union says we need to control leaks. It strikes some of us as Nixonian,” said Scott Allen, a member of the Globe’s Spotlight Team.

But, he added, “it’s important that Guild members focus on what’s important . . . We know we need to make concessions, but we also want to save the newspaper and save our jobs.”

A month ago, management at The New York Times Co., which owns The Globe, told representatives of the paper’s 13 labor unions that they needed to collectively trim $20 million from their budget by May 1. If they don’t, management has reportedly threatened to shutter the paper.

The bulk of the financial burden falls on the Guild, which represents some 732 union employees. Members include editors, advertising salespeople and maintenance workers. Some members have blue-collar sensibilities, lifetime job guarantees and an eye toward retirement. Others steered clear of more working-class union alliances, and aren’t thinking yet about pension payouts.

“We’ve got members who are young and old,” said Beth Daley, a Globe reporter who serves as a Guild delegate. “They all have different needs and wants.” She classified the internal debate as “healthy and normal,” but acknowledged that meeting members’ concerns is a significant challenge. “The union leadership is taking everyone’s concerns into consideration and trying to hammer out an agreement that is going to be painful,” she said. “And,” she added, “information is getting out that is getting people anxious and I know it is not coming from union leadership, who have pledged to keep union negotiation information confidential, as required.”

Late yesterday, Totten informed Guild members that results of a survey, which prioritized which concessions they could endure, would remain private.



David Simon, a former Sun reporter and the high-energy creator of the HBO series "The Wire," did not hold back in a comment on his Facebook page: "I (am) revulsed at what happened at the Baltimore Sun this week. ... It's almost unfathomable. The Baltimore newspaper's only plan is slow suicide, with Chicago leeching the last nickels and dimes even to the moment when they shutter the doors. Never has an industry so willingly butchered itself or shown its own product such contempt."

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