Enquirer Layoffs Hurt Us All

If you think CityBeat staffers are rejoicing over last week’s abrupt demise of CiN Weekly, think again. Produced by The Cincinnati Enquirer, CiN Weekly was CityBeat’s primary competitor. Although our newspaper had philosophical differences with CiN about

If you think CityBeat staffers are rejoicing over last week’s abrupt demise of CiN Weekly, think again.

Produced by The Cincinnati Enquirer, CiN Weekly was CityBeat’s primary competitor. Although our newspaper had philosophical differences with CiN about what a free weekly should be, it’s never a good thing when a newspaper ceases publication or people lose their jobs.

CiN will be replaced by Metromix, jointly produced by Gannett and Chicagobased Tribune Media. Featuring local event listings with some nationally produced material, the switch underscores that Gannett cares more about the bottom line than putting out a useful publication — they can still publish a paper but at much less cost and with less local flavor, yet another slap in the face to the local readership.

CiN’s cancellation occurred due to mass layoffs at The Gannett Co., The Enquirer’s parent firm. An estimated 1,400 people nationwide are expected to lose their jobs before the cuts are completed, including the 101 already let go at Cincinnati’s only remaining daily newspaper. Probably the most well-known staffers who got the axe were arch-conservative columnist Peter Bronson and Editorial Page Editor David Wells.

The layoffs are in addition to Enquirer employees who accepted a voluntary severance package last fall and another round of layoffs that occurred in December. More could happen later this year.

As Enquirer employees braced for layoffs during the last few weeks, some people brought in boxes to pack up personal belongings from desks and take them home as a contingency — just in case they were let go and not given enough time on D-Day to do all that was needed.

This is the corporate environment wrought by eight years of Bush/Cheney economic policies, based on an unregulated Wall Street and where greed trumps all else.

All print publications are reeling from a loss of readers to the Internet and the resulting drop in advertising revenues, but some media industry observers say bad decision-making has left Gannett more vulnerable than most firms.

Financial columnist Richard Morgan, writing at TheDeal.com, believes Gannett’s worst is yet to come. Morgan notes that Gannett — the nation’s largest newspaper company — must raise $400 million in the next two years to pay off debt obligations in a tight credit market. Many Gannett bondholders who also bought credit-default swaps for protection would prefer the company default, because they would make more money under that scenario.

“This type of betting has already been implicated in playing unsavory roles in the bankruptcies or bailouts (or both) of American International Group Inc., General Motors Corp., Idearc Inc. and Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.,” Morgan wrote. “Gannett as we know it will be lucky to last through June 2011.”

No matter what people might have thought of The Enquirer’s quality in recent years, the public is always better served when more sources of information are available rather than fewer. If The Enquirer survives its corporate parent’s meltdown — and it’s likely that it will, in some fashion — the newspaper will be a shadow of its former self, struggling to cover the 15-county Greater Cincinnati region and a population of nearly 2.2 million people with an emaciated staff and dwindling resources.

Meanwhile, a desperate Gannett continues the poorly devised strategy of having its newspapers try to compete with TV by focusing on “breaking news” like car accidents and house fires.

To rub salt in the wounds of those laid off, Gannett has outsourced its severance pay to Total Management Solutions (TMS). The company is “the leading provider of supplemental unemployment benefit plan solutions and an authority in reducing severance costs,” according to a TMS Web site.

Translating from corporate-speak: This method allows Gannett to pay people less. The severance pay is tied to a person’s eligibility to receive state unemployment benefits, and laid-off workers must verify eligibility on a weekly basis. Payments are made in installments instead of a lump sum and are stopped if the person finds full-time employment.

More insidiously, if a laid-off employee does some freelance work or takes a part-time job, the person gets less severance money, tied to the drop in unemployment benefits.

That compares to past severance packages offered by Gannett, which generally were lump sums based on one week’s pay for every year employed by the company.

The Enquirer’s editorial pages have longed pushed a right-wing, anti-union, status quo loving agenda. We wonder if anyone’s having second thoughts right about now.


Vice President Joseph Biden came to town last week and visited one of CityBeat’s favorite neighborhoods: Northside.

Biden visited the site of the former American Can Co. on Spring Grove Avenue to tout President Obama’s $787 billion economic stimulus plan, passed by Congress in February. Cincinnati officials will use $1.6 million in stimulus funds to help convert the vacant factory into apartments and shops.

Biden noted the Northside project will create hundreds of jobs, an effect that he said would be replicated nationwide as stimulus funds are disbursed and used. Many of the projects, like Northside’s Factory Square development, will lead to more jobs later.

“We’re investing in jobs, but we’re not only investing in today’s jobs but in tomorrow’s prosperity,” Biden said.

Developer Steve Bloomfield said Factory Square would create about 300 jobs during construction and require about 40 positions once completed. Without the stimulus cash, the project probably wouldn’t have happened due to the tight credit market.

PORKOPOLIS TIP LINES: 513-665-4700 (ext. 147) or [email protected]

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