Miami Herald Cuts 24 Jobs; Publisher Says "Conditions Remain Challenging"

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South Florida's fish wrappers: endangered species.
The Miami Herald is cutting 24 jobs throughout the company and reducing the hours of workers involved in printing and delivering the paper, Publisher David Landsberg announced in an email this morning.

Seven people will lose their jobs in the Herald newsroom: an assigning editor, two copyeditors, two designers, a photo editor, and a part-time librarian. El Nuevo Herald will lose one-and-a-half editing positions, according to Herald Executive Editor Anders Gyllenhaal. The affected employees were notified this morning, Gyllenhaal wrote in an email to the staff.

For a newsroom of 200 staffers and a media company with about 900 employees, these cuts are not enormous. But they come after two years of painful job hemorrhaging at the Herald and its competitors, the Sun-Sentinel and the Palm Beach Post.

In 2008, the Herald eliminated more than 370 jobs through layoffs and buyouts. This March,  175 more jobs disappeared, followed by 16 more in August.

As one Herald reporter told New Times recently, the atmosphere in the newsroom "seems post-apocalyptic to me half the time... Overall, you just feel that the air has been let out of the balloon."

And the outlook for the paper remains grim. As Landsberg wrote in this morning's note to the staff, "The move is part of our ongoing effort to ride out this unprecedented period of economic turmoil.  While we are seeing some signs of improvement on the horizon, we expect operating conditions to remain challenging through much of 2010."

Here's Landsberg's full email, which includes some clues about severance packages for some of the laid-off employees:

To all Herald employees:    

Today we are announcing a reduction plan that will result in the loss of 24 staff positions and the shortening of the full-time workweek for departments directly involved in newspaper production operations.  

The move is part of our ongoing effort to ride out this unprecedented period of economic turmoil.  While we are seeing some signs of improvement on the horizon, we expect operating conditions to remain challenging through much of 2010.     

The reduction plan includes operational savings and the elimination of temporary labor and open positions.  The job eliminations are spread across all of our divisions. Although many of these will occur through involuntary layoffs, there also will be opportunities for employees to voluntarily elect a severance package where reductions are occurring in work groups of two or more employees. If enough employees do not take the voluntary option, then the work groups will be reduced according to least tenure. 

Employees affected by this reduction are being notified immediately and provided with information about a transition package.  If a voluntary option is being offered to your work group, you will receive written notification with additional information today.   

The shortened full-time workweek to 37.5 hours will affect all hourly staffers in Prepress, Printing Operations, Electric Shop, Machine Shop, Packaging and Transportation. Employees who work 37.5 hours in those areas will retain their full-time status for health insurance, vacations and other benefits.  

There will be meetings beginning shortly for all employees in the Operations Division.    As in the past, every effort has been made to minimize the number of layoffs.  At this moment, when signs of an economic recovery are still mixed, our actions will help us navigate what we believe will be a period of moderating revenue losses in 2010.  

 These are difficult decisions, and we realize how tough it is to stay focused on the important mission we share at MHMC.  We have come a long way, and we thank you for your continued dedication and hard work.   

If you have further questions about the plan, please direct them to your division vice president.

David Landsberg


And here's the follow-up note that Gyllenhaal sent to his newsroom staff:

This is to follow up the announcement from David Landsberg that went out a few minutes ago. In the newsroom, this will mean the loss of six full-time positions, one part-time position and reductions in hours for several staff members, most of them editors and supervisors. Those affected were contacted first thing this morning. 

We've worked to keep the number of jobs lost as low as possible and have tried to avoid impact on newsgathering. For this reason, no reporter or photographer positions will be involved. The reduction for El Nuevo Herald will be one and a half positions, both editing posts.  The Herald newsroom reductions will come mostly from editing and production. They include reduced hours for five assigning or supervisory editors and for two administrative posts; and the loss of one assigning editor position, one photo editing position, two design positions, two copy editing positions and one part-time library position.

As in the past, anyone who's part of work group in which a job is eliminated will be offered a voluntary separation. Anyone eligible will be contacted this morning to attend a meeting on the details. We won't have staff meetings otherwise today, but we will have a general information session at 5 p.m. today in the Knight Conference room to answer questions not addressed during the day...

Any reductions bring turmoil and heartache to those directly affected and to the rest of the newsroom as well. If you have questions today or later about any of this, please talk with your department head, to me, or to your supervisor.


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