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Plain Dealer Offers Buyouts To Editorial Staff

Just two years ago, the Plain Dealer cut its newsroom staff by 60 people. Now the paper is eliminating another 38 unionized newsroom positions. It’s hoping that number will voluntarily give up their jobs. The reduction plan has been known for months, but what’s surprising to staffers is the bare-bones package they’re being offered to leave.

SPECTOR: "This is basically a layoff, it's not a buyout - It's a layoff where they are given a chance to volunteer before they're shown the door."

18 year PD reporter Harland Spector sees no indication 38 of his colleagues will consider leaving voluntarily, because – he says - the Plain Dealer's owner, Advance Publications is offering no incentive.

SPECTOR: "Content providers were told they weren't going to be given the same type of packages that managers here were given. Basically they were given two weeks of pay for every year that they worked here, with no health care."

Health care WAS granted to the ten managers at the PD, who left in a round of buyouts completed last week.
If volunteers don’t come forward, there will be forced layoffs. Those people would be eligible for unemployment benefits, and all departing employees will receive two weeks severance pay for each year worked.
This brings to more than 100, the reductions in unionized news staff, since 2006.
Plain Dealer Editor, Susan Goldberg.

GOLDBERG: "There's the world as we wish it were, and the world that we have to live in and the reality of our business is that to remain a viable business that can keep covering this community, we do need to make some of these cutbacks."

Goldberg says there will have to be cuts in the Plain Dealer's coverage, but the paper will maintain its watchdog role - continuing investigations, and coverage of downtown redevelopment and the medical industry. And she points to newly established co-operative agreements with seven other Ohio papers to exchange pictures and articles... as one way to fill the gaps.

Such downsizing is happening throughout the newspaper industry.

In Cincinnati last month, 60 people accepted buyouts from the Enquirer, including a Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist.
The Akron Beacon Journal has had several rounds of buyouts.
Four weeks ago, the venerable New York times laid off nearly 600 people.
And a Minneapolis newspaper is currently weighing bankruptcy.

It’s not a problem with journalists, or journalism – says Northeast Ohio Newspaper Guild executive secretary Rollie Dreussi.

DREUSSI: "it's really an advertising problem. Where are the ads going? That's where they're losing their income. Even though it's not a journalism problem, journalists, and journalism end up suffering. It hurts our people, but I think it hurts the paper, and it hurts the community."

Richard Hendrickson is a Professor of Journalism at John Carroll University. He also laments what will be lost as papers close, or cut back, and agrees that as papers increasingly move on line, it's really on-line services like Ebay and Craigslist, that accentuated the problem of less advertising.

HENDRICKSON: "classifieds are a huge source of revenue for newspapers around the country - and craigslist has expanded to many cities and that's a big problem for papers for their profit line."

P.D. staffers say they felt like a family.
Now, younger workers with families of their own are fighting to hang on - knowing that forced layoffs will be made, in part, along seniority lines.

Perhaps the toughest part is that this comes just as the holidays are approaching. Employees who decide to voluntarily leave must decide to do so by Thanksgiving. Any additional layoffs will be announced before the end of the year.

Rick Jackson is a senior host and producer at Ideastream Public Media. He hosts the "Sound of Ideas" on WKSU and "NewsDepth" on WVIZ.