October 21, 2016 Last Updated 4:30 pm

Editor of WSJ tells news staff it is looking for buyout volunteers in order to limit layoffs

‘We are seeking a substantial number of employees to elect this benefit, but we reserve the right to reject a volunteer based on business considerations,’ editor-in-chief Gerard Baker informs the newsroom

Earlier this week, the Independent Association of Publishers’ Employees told employees of The Wall Street Journal in a memo that there would be bad news coming. “Management, we were told, is looking at the company’s cost base, the business as a whole and how it can proceed in the current business environment.”

wsj-10-20-225Today, the publisher let the staff know the details of that bad news. They are seeking buyouts as a way of limiting the number of layoffs they will eventually announce.

“In order to limit the number of involuntary layoffs, we will be offering all news employees around the world – management and non-management – the option to elect to take an enhanced voluntary severance benefit.” Gerard Baker, editor-in-chief, said in the memo.

“We are seeking a substantial number of employees to elect this benefit, but we reserve the right to reject a volunteer based on business considerations. Employees will be required to sign a separation agreement and release of claims in a form provided by the Company in exchange for the accompanying severance benefits.”

The news comes, as it often does, just before a company is to report earnings. In this case, News Corp, which owns Dow Jones, which publishes the WSJ, reports on Monday, November 7. Sadly, companies like to have these staff cutbacks already out there so as to be able to tell investors that the company is already cutting costs in order to lessen any bad news contained in the earnings report.

The culprit here is declining print advertising. GroupM, the ad-buying unit owned by WPP, said it expected print advertising in newspapers to decline 8.7 percent in 2016 – a reasonable forecast based on what we have seen from earnings reports through the first two quarters of the year.

Print losses are not restricted to the US. Earlier this week, the Canadian newspaper publisher Postmedia Network reported a large loss, with total revenue falling over 13 percent, and print advertising revenue decreasing 21.3 percent. Digital revenue only increased by 0.8 percent in the quarter.

Update: Oh geez, someone needs to learn to use email. Politico is reporting that Barron’s editor, responding to the WSJ email, wanted to know if the “employees we are laying off at Barron’s next week” would get the same package as WSJ staff. But rather than hitting “reply” he hit… you can guess, yet? What a way to find out about layoffs.

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