Philadelphia Inquirer Hiring a Sports Writer but Also Seeking 40 More Buyouts (Updated)

Let’s get it back to local media.

As you know, the Philadelphia Inquirer is going through a transformation of sorts. There have been a lot of buyouts and retirements over the last few years, coupled with the departure of Editor Stan Wischnowski following the Buildings Matter, Too debacle. The company endured an employee revolt of sorts, was told there wasn’t enough diversity in the ranks, and then brought in Michael Huang to replace Pat McLoone as the sports department morphs into something modern and tenable.

Interestingly enough, the company is now hiring a sports writer for the first time in forever:

It doesn’t say in the job description exactly what “beat” this person will be on, but I think you can look at the current staff and think about what areas need to be addressed and which writers might be moving on at some point.

And that’s the curious thing here, moving on,  because the company is still not done trimming down the staff. After years of buyouts and departures, there’s another round taking place, and the NewsGuild of Greater Philadelphia put out a memo regarding this most recent reduction effort.

It reads:

Unlike other buyouts, this one is offering more flexibility in terms of when anyone who takes the voluntary separation package must leave. If you want the buyout but don’t want to leave June 11, that will all be established as you go through the paperwork process. If, for instance, you want to say yes to the buyout but work until October, or even the end of the year, that can be arranged in discussions between Bill and P & C.

There are no layoffs threatened if the company doesn’t reach the goal of 40 people it has set. That’s 40 people throughout the company, and includes managers. Those who don’t take the buyout, especially in the newsroom, could find themselves possibly reassigned to other jobs. So, if you are on the fence and a reassignment would cause you to not want to continue to work here, it’s important you have conversations with your supervisors NOW. Don’t let the May 31 deadline for applying for the buyout pass and THEN learn that you’re vulnerable to being reassigned to something you hate.

If you are vested in the pension, meaning you had worked at the company at least five years at the time the pension was frozen in 2010 you also upon taking the buyout would be entitled to a payout from the Guild Supplemental Pension Fund, a remnant of the Knight-Ridder days. That is paid as a monthly annuity for the rest of your life or until the fund runs out of money. The annuity amount is based on what you were earning at the time the fund was frozen. Exact payout info is provided from the pension administrators. 

The bold stuff is what we’re focused on. There’s a May 31st deadline to apply for this buyout, and the company is looking to axe 40 more people. If you don’t take the buyout, you might be moved to a new gig instead.

What we’re trying to piece together here is the sports department structure and who may be vulnerable. Wischnowski more or less acted as a shield for McLoone over the years. When he resigned, McLoone was shown the door. With McLoone out, does that make any particular remaining writer a potential target? Perhaps. One person in the know told me that the buyout offer was “very good” and another source said the Inquirer is “serious” about shaking things up.

There are a number of veteran sports writers remaining with the Inquirer, and the staff is still relatively large. There are three columnists in Marcus Hayes, Mike Sielski, and David Murphy. Les Bowen, Paul Domowitch, Jeff McLane, and E.J. Smith handle the Eagles. Marc Narducci and Keith Pompey write about the Sixers. There are two Flyers guys in Sam Carchidi and Ed Barkowitz, and Matt Breen, Scott Lauber, and Bob Brookover are on the Phils. Mike Jensen does a little bit of everything and Joe Juliano is on the college/etc beat. Jonathan Tannenwald and a couple of other folks do a variety of stuff as well.

So it’s still a pretty robust staff, even after recent departures. We’ll see if anybody in this department decides to hang ’em up and move on.

EDIT –

I’m told that a couple of sports folks will indeed be taking buyouts.

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