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April 4th, 2012 By Kevin Osborne | News | Posted In: News, Media, Business, Community, Financial Crisis

Enquirer Sheds 12 Newsroom Staffers

Company buyout period has ended

enquirerIllustration: Julie Hill

The bloodletting in the newsroom at The Enquirer is over, at least for now.

Editor Carolyn Washburn sent an email to the newspaper’s editorial staff this morning, announcing the names of 12 people who have decided to accept a voluntary “early retirement” severance deal offered by The Enquirer’s parent firm, The Gannett Co.

CityBeat already has reported that political columnist Howard Wilkinson, longtime photographer Michael Keating and Editorial Page Editor Ray Cooklis were among those departing the media company.

Other editorial staffers who are taking the buyout are business reporter Mike Boyer; Features Editor Dave Caudill; news reporter Steve Kemme; Copy Desk Chief Sue Lancaster; Production Manager Greg Noble; Butler/Warren Editor Jim Rohrer; sports copy editor Bill Thompson; Copy Editor Pat Tolzmann; and Copy Editor Tim Vonderbrink.

They join Assistant Managing Editor/Sports Barry Forbis and Deputy Sports Editor Rory Glynn, who announced their resignations in March.

In her email, Washburn wrote that the company will throw a party in its conference room for the departing staffers on April 12.

As one ex-Enquirer reporter said when hearing about the plans, “Some sendoff for those leaving.

Washburn is throwing them a ‘proper party,’ whatever that is, for them on the 20th floor, no doubt in the sterile training room where staffers learn about inane new corporate initiatives. A ‘proper party’ for the loss of 350-plus years of experience and institutional knowledge would be an employee tavern of choice with an open bar, but what would Washburn know?”

Gannett announced the buyout offer Feb. 9 and gave employees 45 days to decide whether to apply for the deal.

At the close of the offer period, editors reviewed applications and made final decisions; some people who apply for the deal potentially could've been turned down if their position is deemed essential to the newspaper’s operation.

Under the deal, newspaper employees who are age 56 or older and have at least 20 years of service with Gannett as of March 31 are eligible. Although executives said 785 employees meet the criteria, the deal only is being offered to 665 employees “due to ongoing operational needs at the company.”

As part of reductions mandated by Gannett, The Enquirer has laid off about 150 workers during the past two years. Also, employees have had to take five unpaid furloughs during the past three years.

Gannett recently gave Craig Dubow, its CEO who allegedly left the company due to health reasons, a $37.1 million compensation package. The Columbia Journalism Review examined what Gannett could’ve bought with that money instead, including paying for the starting salaries of 1,474 staffers at The Indianapolis Star or 310,720 annual subscriptions to The Tallahassee Democrat's website.

Here is the full text of Washburn’s email:

From: Washburn, Carolyn

Sent: Wednesday, April 04, 2012 8:39 AM

To: CIN-News Users; ohiodaily

Subject: saying thank you to our new retirees

It's official now. In the next couple of weeks we will say thank you and best wishes to these colleagues who have decided to take the company's early retirement offer. The complete group is, in no particular order:

Dave Caudill,
Greg Noble,
Jim Rohrer,
Sue Lancaster,
Pat Tolzmann,
Tim Vonderbrink,
Bill Thompson,
Michael Keating,
Mike Boyer,
Steve Kemme,
Howard Wilkinson, Ray Cooklis

Ray will be here until April 27. Greg's last day in the office was a week or so ago, before a furlough and vacation. Everyone else will have their last day next Thursday, April 12.

We will have a proper party in the 20th floor conference room on April 12 at 4pm.

I'll meet with some small groups in the next few days and we'll have a full staff meeting the week of April 16 to talk about what's next, now that we are confirmed on who chose to retire. There is a plan. :)

We will be very sad to say goodbye. But I am happy for these folks who decided this was the right thing for them.

Thanks again to Dave, Greg, JR, Sue, Pat, Tim, Bill, Michael, Mike, Steve, Howard and Ray. 

 
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