Behind the News

The last days of a Denver newspaper

I meant to post this e-mail a while back when the Rocky Mountain News closed shop, but it became lost in my inbox. Nonetheless, I still think it’s important for those reporters who have (so far) survived the painful layoffs at their newspapers.

The e-mail is written by a Denver Post reporter in response to a question about how she felt about the Rocky Mountain News‘ demise.

A big thanks to the reporter who forwarded this to me after he became a self-proclaimed member of LOJA — that is Laid-Off Journalists of America

Here’s the e-mail (without any edits):

It’s been an awful month for Denver newspapers. First The Post laid off six managers. Then the rest of us were told our pay/benefits would be cut by an average of 13 percent. Then the Rocky closed. I worked there four years before I came to The Post, and I knew so many of the faces in their photo galleries and videos … very sad.

I’ve never worked as journalist in a town that didn’t have two newspapers — even Iowa City had the Daily Iowan.

And now we have hired 11 Rocky staffers (thus the laid off managers) to try to retain their readers. Supposedly we are all one big family now. It’s hard not be bitter. They get jobs at the expense of my friends, plus they come in with at least 2 months pay in severance (plus whatever the Guild negotiates) while our pay is getting cut. But this is the new reality, and I need to embrace it.

And I still get a paycheck, and it hasn’t bounced. My owner hasn’t filed for bankruptcy or put us up for sale. We still print seven days a week. So I guess I’m better off than many journalists.

I’ve been looking for work in another field for a year already — I just dont’ want to go where newspapers are going. I was into working with my reporters on stories that mattered to people’s lives and giving them information they needed about their communities. Telling people’s stories and adding to the public discourse. We don’t get to do that much any more around here. Our staff is cut, our newshole is cut and more and more resources go online. And that online audience isn’t the same as the print audience. Many days now I feel like a TV news producer — all small bites with no substance.

But it’s up to me make a change, and I dont’ want to take a big pay cut or leave Denver, so I’m picky about what I apply for. Last year I was a finalist for three communications jobs. During the interviews I was told each time that more than 250 had applied. I know it will take awhile.

Especially with 200-plus Rocky colleagues now in the job market. …

God bless us all

Behind the News, The Unemployed Life

There’s a whole lot more unemployed journalists in Florida

Bob Norman of the Broward County New Times has the latest on the staff cuts at the Sun-Sentinel:

I got Tribune spokesman Gary Weitman on the phone in Chicago, and all he would give me were corporate platitudes. “We are constantly trying to improve the business model,” he told me. “We are doing a number of things to be efficient across the company. Getting into the nitty gritty details is not something I’m going to do.”

He told me to call Jennifer Sacks, the Sentinel spokeswoman. She told me that whatever was happening in classifieds was something she couldn’t “expand on.”

Isn’t it great how the Sun-Sentinel is so accountable to the public about what’s going on? For them, it’s all about sunlight, openness, and the power of the truth — as long as it’s another company.

Check out the list on his blog here. He’s also got an item up about layoffs at the smaller Palm Beach Daily News.

Behind the News, The Unemployed Life

Layoffs, Furloughs impact Gannett and Sun-Sentinel

The ranks of unemployed journalists swell again this week as The Ann Arbor News announced plans to close shop and South Florida’s Sun Sentinel gives pink slips to two well-respected columnists. Get those cardboard signs ready, folks.

In addition, the huge Gannett newspaper chain told employees they will be forced to take another week-long furlough. Better than losing your job, right?

As far as furloughs go, reporters should look into his or her state’s unemployment laws. In Florida, you can claim those weeks of forced vacation. You don’t get anything for the first week, but — if you meet certain conditions — any subsequent weeks can be claimed. Unfortunately, it looks like Gannett is spreading out those weeks, which could impact your eligibility.

More on that subject here.