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ProJo seeking to shed more employees

September 7, 2012

With readership dropping and advertising revenues declining, the Providence Journal, the state’s largest newspaper, is seeking to shed more workers. The Projo  is offering buyouts to veteran employees. If a sufficient number of employees do not take the buyouts, layoffs are likely, says John Hill, president of the Providence Newspaper Guild, the union representing many employees.

The buyout deal isn’t a very good one, especially when compared with other buyouts the company offered in 2008. This  new buyout round would give an employee 1.25 weeks of base pay for every year of service at the newspaper. But the offer is capped at 10 weeks and there is no post-employment health care provision, which is a serious drawback for older employees who have many years at the ProJo but are not old enough to qualify for Medicare.

Under the newspaper’s union contracts, layoffs are done by seniority, which has sent shivers through the newsroom. “There are some really, really  talented people who are in danger of losing their jobs,” says Hill.

Journalists at the ProJo are worried because a similar buyout was offered last December, just before Christmas. At that time, the newspaper’s management set a target of 8 employees taking buyouts. That goal was met and layoffs were averted.

This time may be different, Hill says.  Management, Hill says, has not told the Guild what number of employees they want to shed. “They are saying it is substantially more than eight.”

Hill says the hardy journalists who remain at 75 Fountain Street are worried that this round of  employee reductions may harm the quality of  the newspaper that Rhode Islanders have relied on for news for almost two centuries.

All departments at the newspaper are being targeted, except the pressmen who print the ProJo and other newspapers (New London Day, Fall River Herald News) at the production facility on Kinsley Avenue. Hill says the changing economy for newspapers nationally and Rhode Island’s slow recovery from the recession are major factors in this new round of buyouts.

“Every newspaper in the country is dealing with this as the business tries to reinvent itself,” says Hill.

Hill says management is not seeking to get rid of older workers so the ProJo can hire younger, cheaper workers. “When these people are gone, the positions go with them.”

11 Comments leave one →
  1. September 7, 2012 4:50 pm

    Sorry John, the quality of the newspaper has already been affected. Perhaps Howard should consider if he really needs all those Vice Presidents. After all when it was the 50th largest newspaper company in the country it had only 4 vice presidents. now its a mere reflection of itself and I count 7 on the payroll.

    • Mister Guy permalink
      September 7, 2012 9:25 pm

      Cut management jobs to save front line employees? Perish the thought!

  2. Peter Kadzis permalink
    September 7, 2012 5:03 pm

    Are the trials and tribulations of the Providence Journal emblematic of Rhode Island’s woes, or are they its embodiment?

    The RI economy is the big culprit. Add to that one of the nation’s most dysfunctional political cultures and you have a recipe for general decline.

    That general decline seems to be accelerating the industry-wide trends that are hitting the ProJo particularly hard.

    Still, in the midst of all this, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that the workers at the paper don’t have the management they deserve. Witness the on-line operation.

    Anyway you slice it, it’s a sad and distressing story.

  3. September 7, 2012 6:54 pm

    Very sad.Some really good people there still.

  4. Debbie permalink
    September 7, 2012 7:30 pm

    Correction: The buyouts are not being offered only to “veteran employees.” They are being offered to every employee except for those who work in the pressroom.

    • September 7, 2012 7:32 pm

      Just about everybody there is a veteran. As far as journalists go they have not hired any new ones for quite some time.

  5. September 8, 2012 8:53 am

    … Daniel from the LA area but born and raised in Providence…
    My dad used to buy the NY Daily News, the Boston Herald/ then the Globe and the Journal on Sunday’s, to get ‘balanced’ reporting on ‘current events.’ The Journal -Bullletin used to ‘wear him out’ as he used to say with innuendo… (we got the rag daily)…Now I’m going back 45 years… How can a monopoly for as long as I’ve been alive (59 yrs) be in such straights?… But then again how could Chase, Bof A, Wells Fargo ect… (not to mention Amer. Ins Group AKA AIG + other banks and Ins Co’s have to borrow our $ ?… and burn us to the stake for the priviledge? …in fees, loan ‘modifications, ect… MAN we have to be the dumbest citizens of any nation on Earth… COAST to COAST… and take your pick from trash running for president… I’m writing in as I cannot vote , for the 1st time since I’ve been able to, in 1972, for either one of those two… If they are the best I’m either in the wrong century, or the WRONG country… Signed,
    Daniel Carroll
    Sunset Beach, CA 90742

    • September 8, 2012 8:57 am

      …Love ‘freedom’ of the press/internet… even though censorship make ‘freedom’ a misnomer…lol…-:) X 100

  6. Peter permalink
    September 8, 2012 5:25 pm

    Really sad to see their demise. It started with the death of classified advertising and has accelerated with their pathetic excuse of a digital property. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the whole paper shut down in the next few years, It’s already happened in larger cities.

  7. Bill permalink
    September 11, 2012 5:17 pm

    It all started when Journal published Michael Metcalf was killed in 1987. Metcalf never would have sold the paper to Belo as his successor Stephen Hamblett did. Now, while Metcalf wouldn’t be able to stop the rise of the internet and the demise of print journalism, he certainly would have put up a better fight. Metclalf was a visionary – well ahead of his time (Cable TV, cell phones…) He would have maximized the web to its fullest potential. He would not have run and hid from it as the Journal did. Why did the Journal name it’s first, sad attempt at a website “R.I. Horizons”? Why wouldn’t you want the masthead all over your new site? Metcalf would have embraced the new technology and certainly would have given it a much better chance for success.

Trackbacks

  1. ProJo faces cuts: a sad day for journalism in Rhode Island « On Politics

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