Thursday, November 25, 2010

Getting caught up on the new round of Booth layoffs

Just back from our trip and catching up on all things newspaper related. I have obtained the following information from a variety of sources and while it is still not complete, we're getting closer.

Grand Rapids – Eight editorial layoffs, including an IT guy laid off a couple weeks before the latest round.

Layoffs were on the copy desk, sports, photo, graphics, metro, entertainment.

Additional layoffs may be coming as the west Booth newspapers reorganize – Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids plan to consolidate sports, entertainment and web content under one umbrella apparently similar to what happened in Flint, Bay City and Saginaw.

Still no coverage of the layoffs and a story about the GR publisher talking to a local organization had a graph or two about the layoffs edited out of the published story. Nice.

Total layoffs at Grand Rapids was about 20 employees.

Unlike previous layoffs, the editor didn’t deliver the bad news personally, but through the department heads. Looks like the “open door” policies the company always prided itself on have slammed shut.

Muskegon lost two editorial employees, I don’t have numbers on the rest at Muskegon. Also I’m not aware of the severance packages offered at any of the three papers.

Lower revenues are being predicted for 2011 for Grand Rapids anway.

Still interesting is that in Kalamazoo, the purported reasons for the layoffs had to do with creating a stronger online presence and yet two of the employees and the managing editor who had the strongest online responsibilities were let go. Apparently there is a push now for editorial employees to post their own work, which would explain the sometimes crude condition of online copy.

One of the reporters laid off at Kalamazoo was the City Hall reporter which at least one source said will likely kill any chance of any responsible reporting on the city’s attempts to recover money lost when it gave tax breaks to the Gazette in exchange for creating more jobs.

Also gone from the Gazette are the religion writer/editor and two hometown editors, including one who had been on medical leave. The circulation manager was also sent packing.

I've also received a report that what remained of the Flint Journal accounting department has also been terminated. No further information was offered.

One of the most troubling parts of all these layoffs and decisions is the lack of transparency and coverage on the pages of the newspapers. Newspapers should set the standard for other companies in being open and honest about what is happening. If not, they should quit calling other businesses for the same information.

All is not well.