October 5, 2015 Last Updated 4:33 pm

Tribune Publishing’s really bad day punctuated with buyouts

Journalists have fun with LA Times front page ad and typo, but then word hits of voluntary buyouts at the publisher’s daily newspapers, possibly to be followed by involuntary layoffs

Tribune Publishing today shot itself in the foot, reloaded the gun and shot again. It’s been that kind of day for the publisher of the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and other newspapers. It might have a pretty good had the only news to come out had been that the CEO of its rival, the publisher of the Sun-Times, Wrapports LLC, had lost its CEO to Cleveland.

LAT-front-360The day started with the LA Times being delivered with a front page that was at least half taken up by an ad for American Airlines. Journalists and media critics exploded on social media. But as a former advertising director and classified advertising manager, I am naturally going to be sympathetic to a publisher’s desire for the revenue, especially when the front page ad teases a two-page spread inside. Besides, what are the editors going to lead with anyways on a Monday? a recap of the LA Rams game?

But it didn’t help that one of the three stories left room for on the front page was a story about Carly Fiorina with a dateline that read “San Franciscio”.

For weeks there were rumors that the newsroom out be hit hard at the LA Times, so it wouldn’t have been a surprise if today was the day they were announced. But when they were confirmed it looks like they will be worse than anticipated as none of the newspapers will be spared.

Any non-union employee with more than one year of service will be eligible to participate in the program, CEO Jack Griffin informed staff today.

How many positions will be eliminated? That is unclear. One report says 80 newsroom jobs, another said at least 50 in LA alone. But employees have less than three weeks to decide, if not enough people volunteer by October 23 then there will be involuntary cutbacks.

“The senior management team and I recognize that each employee makes important contributions to our company,” Griffin said in his memo to staff. “At the same time, in the challenging revenue environment that all publishing companies face, it is critical that we make hard decisions and take the necessary steps that continue to position Tribune Publishing Company for success over the long term.”

(Politico is reporting that employees with 1 to 10 years of service who volunteer will receive one week pay for every week they have worked, those with 11-20 get an extra week for the years 11 through 20, and those with more than 20 get a third week of pay for the years over 20.)

“In addition, we are making the difficult decision to close the retiree medical program to all active employees as of December 31, 2015,” HR informed those who might be tempted to stay on. Of course, should an employee chose to go, Tribune Publishing would not guarantee that their retired media benefits would continue.

“The Company cannot guarantee that the Retiree Medical Program will be available to retirees at any time in the future and the Company reserves the right to modify, amend or terminate the Retiree Medical Program at any time,” the company said in a rather ominous disclaimer.

It has been bad times at Tribune since the spin-out as TPUB stock has fallen more than 59 percent over the past year, though the stock is up a few cents of late after the publisher of the LA Times, Austin Beutner, was sacked. But then the NY Times soon after profiled the company, A Firing at The Los Angeles Times Focuses Discontent, which led to company executives calling an investor conference call to try and manage the situation. That call didn’t allow for questions and is mostly remembered for the company lowering its revenue forecast.

Comments are closed.