Merry Christmas. Now, get out.
A memo sent today from a top Gannett Co. executive indicates layoffs are coming at the company’s newspapers — including The Cincinnati Enquirer — by the first week in December.
The memo was written by Robert J. Dickey, Gannett’s U.S. Community Publishing president, and was sent to all publishers and general managers. Dickey gave them about two weeks to devise plans for “an involuntary staff reduction of approximately 10 percent” at each newspaper.
“As all of you are painfully aware, the fiscal crisis is deepening and the economy is getting worse,” Dickey wrote. “Gannett’s revenues continue to be severely impacted by this downturn, and our local operations are suffering. While we are doing our best to reduce all non staff-related expenses, I am sorry to report that we must do another round of layoffs across our division.
“To that end, we will institute an involuntary staff reduction of approximately 10 percent by the first week of December. The terms of the severance will be one week for each year of service with a cap of 26 weeks.”
The memo continued, “Each publisher is responsible for developing their local plan to achieve the expected goal. Decisions will be made locally because each of our markets is unique, with differing market conditions and individual needs in light of our previous reductions.
“I have asked that all plans be completed by November 14th at which time they will go through the standard review process.”
In September The Enquirer’s management accepted voluntary buyouts for 60 staffers from various departments, including 15 from the newsroom.
Among those who left were editorial cartoonist Jim Borgman, entertainment writer Jim Knippenberg, transportation reporter and ex-movie reviewer Margaret McGurk, First Amendment reporter Tony Lang and Deputy Features Editor Ann Hass.
About the same time, The Enquirer added three new people to its staff.
In early August the newspaper offered a voluntary severance program to its employees in an effort to cut costs and wanted 50 staffers to accept the package and agree to leave. Under the deal, the company offered two weeks of severance pay for every year of credited service, up to 52 weeks.
The latest call for job reductions isn’t voluntary and involves a less generous severance package.
Gannett’s stock price last week sank to an 18-year low. The stock dropped 11.25 percent during the Oct. 22 session, closing at $9.31 a share. Once adjusted for splits and dividends, it’s Gannett’s lowest price since October 1990.