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Holidays not merry at Providence Journal

December 2, 2011

Tough economic times continue to take a toll at the Providence Journal, the state’s largest newspaper. Management is looking for eight workers – split between advertising and the newsroom – to take buyouts and leave the ProJo. If the company does not get the eight buyouts, layoffs would ensue, according to John Hill, president of the Providence Newspaper Guild, the union representing newspaper journalists, porters and advertising employees.

If the company doesn’t get the buyouts, the eight positions targeted for layoffs include two inside advertising representatives, two outside sales representatives, one reporter, one copy editor, one photographer and one editorial assistant, Hill said.

Under terms of the guild contract, layoffs would be done by seniority, with younger and less experienced employees being the first to go. The buyouts are not generous by historic ProJo standards. Employees would get 1.25 weeks of pay for every year they have worked at the paper, up to a maximum of 10 weeks pay.

The floundering economy continues to have an impact on newspaper advertising revenues, Hill says. “October and September were bad, as it was everywhere,’’ says Hill.

Other newspapers in New England are facing similar downturns and have taken action to control costs, Hill says. For example, union workers at both the Portland Press Herald and the Manchester Union Leader in New Hampshire have recently taken pay cuts of 10 percent or more.

Hill says there are some signs for hope. The ProJo ad revenues so far in November have rebounded. “November looks good…Black Friday shopping has been up and a solution to the European problems will help.’’

Hill also said that rolling out the pay content on the newspaper’s web site should bring more revenue to  75 Fountain St. “That should go a long way to stabilizing things until the economy sorts itself out.’’

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