Layoffs may be on the way for staffers at The Times-Picayune after the first of the year, reports Editor & Publisher:
Advance Publications' Newhouse Newspapers, believed to be the only major newspaper chain to avoid layoffs throughout the recent upheavals suffered by its industry, is planning to remove its long-standing "no-layoffs" pledge.
Publishers at the chain's 20 daily newspapers, which include The Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J.; The Oregonian in Portland, the Staten Island (N.Y.) Advance and The Times-Picayune of New Orleans, broke the news to staffers Wednesday.
"We wanted to communicate to employees that this is coming," said Steve Newhouse, chairman of AdvanceNet, the chain's online division, and a member of the Newhouse family, the company's longtime owners. "We have had a pledge not to layoff employees for economic conditions or advances in technology."
But Newhouse said recent industry problems have forced the company to rescind the pledge. He said staffers are being told today that the pledge will remain for six more months, and then layoffs could occur.
"It was not a pledge that applied to the kind of transitional moment in the newspaper industry that is basically struggling to survive," he said, noting it only applied to the company's daily newspapers.
This is following the departure of some of the T-P's most experienced and recognizable names, including Angus Lind, Susan Finch and David Cuthbert in the paper's latest series of buyouts. It's also a rough blow to a paper where morale already isn't tip-top and yet the staff is working hard to put out quality work, because that's just what they do.
The pledge was a lovely thing in theory, but it was hardly legally binding; the life of a newspaper employee isn't a civil-service sinecure, with all its perqs and guarantees. The days of big-city dailies as fat-and-lazy "velvet coffins" where people remain for decades are gone forever. It's possible to foresee a day when big-city dailies are gone forever, too. According to the blog Paper Cuts, which tracks the
death decline of U.S. newspapers, the industry has lost 12,964 jobs in 2009 alone -- almost as many as it did in the entire year of 2008, which was horrendous on its own. With this news, it's hard to imagine 2010 will be any better for anyone except perhaps Satan's Botoxed Handmaiden, who will likely be offering unemployed journos the chance to work "for exposure." But exposure don't pay the rent or feed the cat.
To our friends and colleagues over at the T-P (even the ones who can't stand us): we're feeling for you today. Truly.
And to double the bummer: It's been one of the worst-kept secrets in town that the T-P's excellent food critic, Brett Anderson, was on the very short list of people to replace The New York Times' food critic Frank Bruni. Today it was announced that the job went to Times culture editor Sam Sifton. We're disappointed for Anderson, but the silver lining is that we'll be able to look forward to his byline in Lagniappe.