Philadelphia Inquirer "Will Need to Consider Layoffs" if New Buyout Number isn't Reached
Let’s get it back to the local media scene.
Over at the NewsGuild of Greater Philadelphia website, President Diane Mastrull informed union members that the Philadelphia Inquirer may have more layoffs if it can’t complete another buyout round:
At the urging of the Guild, the Company has extended the application deadline for those interested in the buyout to Friday, Dec. 2. (It had been the Friday after Thanksgiving.)
As a reminder, the buyout is only available to those employees with at least 25 years with the company — Guild and non-Guild.
As of this writing, about five Guild members have applied. The Company has not disclosed how many non-Guild members have applied.
Yesterday, Bill Ross and I met with the head of labor relations, Tom Zipfel, to impress upon him the importance of knowing the number of layoffs the Company would like to have and if layoffs would occur if that target was not achieved.
Today, we got both answers:
The number of buyouts the Company is looking for: 20. That is companywide.
Will there be layoffs if that doesn’t happen: “Unfortunately, if that target is not reached, the Company will need to consider layoffs at some point in the future,” Zipfel said.
At some point, you begin to wonder who is left. I am not sure that any of the remaining sports writers are eligible, since almost all of the veterans took buyouts during previous rounds. I could certainly be wrong, but I think Mike Jensen and Marcus Hayes are the longest-tenured remaining sports guys, though I don’t think they’ve been at the Inquirer for a quarter-century, so you’d think the cuts will have to come in other departments.
Regardless, it’s interesting to see more of this from the Inquirer, because it’s already been a perpetual thing for years now, purging the old (and mostly white) staffers and getting younger and more diverse. In speaking to folks over there, it would seem that morale is rather low, with some people checked out and others disgruntled to varying extents. I noted in a recent column that editor Gabe Escobar sent an email to staff, asking them to crank out more content to help combat a decline in digital audience, so I should probably follow up with sources there and see how that’s progressing. They put in place some “publishing volume goals” for editors in an effort to get things cranking again.
There’s also an outstanding pay grievance issue, which went to arbitration and has not yet been resolved, as least not that I’m aware of. There’s the move to the new office as well. Bottom line, it’s been a pretty rocky five years for the Inquirer, which is trying to reinvent himself not just after the employee revolt, but in the face of rapidly changing journalism consumption habits.