It was only two years ago that The Star Ledger, a Pulitzer-winning daily that is New Jersey’s largest newspaper, avoided closing down altogether by getting rid of about 40% of its roughly 330-person newsroom through buyouts.
Now, the paper needs an unspecified number of additional employees to take voluntary buyouts to offset its projected 2010 loss of $10 million, according to a memo obtained by Editor & Publisher.
“Obviously, losses of this magnitude are unsustainable,” the memo read. The number of buyouts in this round, he wrote, “will depend on who applies and from what departments. After reviewing all the applications, we will make a decision on which buyouts make business sense for us.
“I believe the unions representing many of our employees will see that at this moment it is in our mutual interest to talk and find ways to provide the Newspaper with the savings it needs,” [Publisher Richard] Vezza wrote. “They, like us, have a strong interest in restoring the health of The Star-Ledger.”
Still, with its newsroom decimated and the threat of closure fresh in staffers’ minds, morale must be pretty low over at The Star Ledger’s Newark headquarters.
Here’s the full memo, via Romenesko:
September 7, 2010
To: [Star-Ledger] Staff
From: [Publisher] Richard Vezza
After seeing our financial performance for the first seven months of this year and projecting the remainder of the year, it’s clear that we need to further reduce costs. Our past efforts have helped in moving us toward the success we must have to continue publishing, but, our ad revenues have continued to decline in this unprecedented recession and we are now at a very precarious point.
Based on our first seven months of actual performance and our projection for the remainder of the year, it is likely the Company will lose approximately $10 million this year. This follows a year, 2009, in which we lost about $9 million. Obviously, losses of this magnitude are unsustainable and threaten our continued existence.
In order to ensure the future of the Star-Ledger, we need to reorganize our Company and take appropriate, if difficult, actions.
At the heart of these efforts to reduce costs and create efficiencies is a voluntary buyout program and an adjustment of some salaries based on job duties and what newspapers of a similar size and situation are paying for those jobs. We also are looking to restructure some functions performed by certain job titles.
The details of the buyout offer and whether the wage adjustments and position modifications will affect you will be discussed with you by your Department Heads. In the interim, here is a quick overview of the voluntary buyout offer.
* Full-time, non-represented employees, excluding Department Heads, hired prior to January 1, 2006 are eligible to apply for a voluntary buyout equal to one-year of their current salary.
* Medical benefits will continue during the one year period.
Department Heads and Human Resources will evaluate the buyout applications and determine whether business needs will permit the Company, within its sole discretion, to accept an application for the buyout. The buyout papers will be mailed to your home. If you do not receive them, please contact HR.
Once you receive the buyout papers, you will have up to 45 days to decide whether you would like to apply for the buyout. If you wish to apply, you must sign the papers in the HR Department and in front of an HR representative no later than 45 days after your receipt of the papers. After you have signed the papers, you will have seven days to rescind your application by submitting your rescission in writing to HR.
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The salary adjustments are being made because, for many jobs, salaries do not accurately reflect the functions performed. In these difficult times, we must ensure that our employees are paid fairly and appropriately for the jobs they perform. Additionally, in this reorganization, certain job duties may be combined and some individuals will find that they have been given additional duties and responsibilities.
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We also are contacting the unions and notifying them of our desire to sit down with them and discuss the Newspaper’s dire need to cut costs and create efficiencies. We are confident that those discussions will be productive because a viable Star-Ledger is in everybody’s best interest.
As we look back over the last two years, we have made progress. But much more progress is required for The Star-Ledger to be placed on firm footing. There is a lot at stake here. We are all in this together and with your help I’m confident we can overcome all obstacles.
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