(** UPDATE FOLLOWS AT END)
With another round of layoffs hitting The Enquirer and other Gannett newspapers nationwide, time will tell if a separate trend at the media company will occur soon in Cincinnati.
Gannett announced last week that it was pulling the plug on the print editions of two faux alt-weeklies, Metromixin Indianapolis and Noise in Lansing, Mich. Both will maintain an online presence, at least for now.
The move follows the cancellation of Metromix's print edition in Nashville last winter and the end of Velocity as a stand-alone paper in Louisville, which is being folded into The Courier-Journal.
Although it’s moving staff out of its offices in Kentucky, The Cincinnati Enquirer intends to continue publishing a daily Kentucky edition with unique content for Northern Kentucky.
Editor Steve Wilson was among those laid off from The Kentucky Enquirer yesterday. He will remain at the newspaper for four weeks, along with several colleagues who were also laid off.
Wilson told CityBeat that The Enquirer isn’t backing away from its commitment to northern Kentucky, but acknowledges problems posed by the layoffs.
“Clearly, all things being equal, you want to have reporters based in the area they’re covering. That just makes sense. Everybody would agree with that,” Wilson says. “But in this case, they apparently had their reasons that made sense to them.”
Wilson won’t speculate on the reasons, but he cites cost
concerns as an ongoing problem. “Gannett, like most companies, is very
bottom-line-driven, and they had to do something to reduce expenses,” he
says, pointing to the continuing trend of downsizing in the news industry.
Following the demise of The Cincinnati Post in 2007, The Cincinnati Enquirer and its Kentucky edition made strides to appeal to northern Kentucky readers. One example: The newspaper stopped referring to the region as “Greater Cincinnati,” instead adopting “Greater Cincinnati and northern Kentucky” — a lede-unfriendly moniker that was meant to show The Enquirer was serious about reaching out.
But a source close to The Enquirer who asked to remain anonymous questioned the success of those efforts, given yesterday’s layoffs.
Gannett Blog claims 23 people were laid off at Enquirer offices, but it’s difficult to confirm the report because of Gannett’s secrecy with staffing issues. More than 400 people lost their jobs at Gannett newspapers around the nation, according to the blog.
Based on information gathered so far, the local layoffs span through the Cincinnati and Kentucky versions of The Enquirer, Community Press and Community Recorder.
A source close to the situation told CityBeat that eight reporters, two editors and one photographer are moving from the Kentucky offices to downtown Cincinnati, with the remaining Kentucky staff members laid off. Staff members were also moved from the newspaper’s West Chester office, which covered Butler and Warren counties.
Original reports claimed the Kentucky and West Chester offices were closing, but they will apparently remain open for reporters in a limited capacity.
The source gave the names of five people who were laid off: Wilson; Bill Cieslewicz, a mid-level editor; Jackie Demaline, theatre critic and arts writer; Paul McKibben, breaking news reporter; and Ealer Wadlington, listing coordinator.
When asked about the layoffs, Gannett spokesperson Jeremy Gaines told journalism industry blogger Jim Romenesko, “Some USCP (U.S. Community Publishing) sites are making cuts to align their business plans with local market conditions.”
The nationwide layoffs come a couple weeks after Gannett CEO Gracia Martore proudly claimed on July 22, “We are accelerating our transformation into the ‘New Gannett’ every day.”
Updated on Nov. 4 at 12:03 p.m.: Added final layoff numbers from Gannett Blog.
Updated on Aug. 6 at 11:13 a.m.: Added the latest layoff numbers from Gannett Blog.
Updated on Aug. 6 at 10:47 a.m.: Reports now say that The Enquirer will keep its Kentucky and West Chester offices open in a limited capacity. The story was updated to reflect the latest news.
Faced with the choice between job layoffs or a second round of unpaid furloughs for employees, executives at the financially troubled Gannett Co. announced today they were selecting the latter course.
Gannett, the parent firm of The Cincinnati Enquirer, announced a furlough program that will require most non-unionized workers to take at least five days of unpaid leave sometime in April, May or June. The move is expected to save the company about $20 million.
As expected, the ax fell quickly at The Cincinnati Enquirer this week as its parent company demands mass layoffs before year’s end.
CityBeat has held off on posting the names of some people we've heard have been laid off from The Cincinnati Enquirer pending better verification, but we can now confirm two more departures.
Assistant Business Editor Randy Tucker and Obituaries Writer Rebecca Goodman have left the newspaper's staff. Tucker was a victim of the layoffs; it's unclear whether Goodman was laid off or chose to leave since she recently graduated from law school.
Councilwoman Yvette Simpson is questioning why WCPO used a man named Jim Kiefer as a source for a story after he harassed her on social media with racist insults.
WCPO’s Kevin Osborne
quoted Kiefer in a story, identifying him as a supporter for John Cranley’s mayoral
campaign. (Full disclosure: Osborne formerly worked for CityBeat.)
When Simpson saw the story with Kiefer as a source, she says she immediately recognized him as someone who has repeatedly harassed her with racist remarks on Facebook.
Kiefer's Facebook page was publicly viewable prior to Simpson calling him out on Twitter yesterday, but it has since been made private.
On Oct. 20, the day before WCPO's story was published, Kiefer posted a message on his Facebook wall that said, “For my pick as worst councilperson in cincinnati (sic).... Evette (sic) getto (sic) Simpson!” Although the post included various grammatical and spelling errors, Kiefer then attached an image that said, “No you may not ‘Axe’ me a question. I don't speak Walmart.”
Several of Simpson’s colleagues, including Councilman Chris Seelbach and City Council candidate Mike Moroski, have come to Simpson’s defense after she posted the image.
The issue for Simpson is whether a media outlet should be
using Kiefer as a source, considering his images and posts were publicly viewable on Facebook. Simpson says Osborne never responded to
her email asking whether he or WCPO is aware of Kiefer’s history. Osborne is Facebook friends with Kiefer.
CityBeat contacted WCPO News Director Alex Bongiorno by phone and email to ask about WCPO’s policy for vetting and identifying sources, but no response was given prior to the publishing of this story.
WCPO’s story detailed criticisms from Cranley supporters against opponent Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, who Simpson supports. Specifically, the story questioned why Qualls allegedly never sought an opinion from the Ohio Board of Ethics over whether her work as a realtor presents a potential conflict of interest with her support for the streetcar project, which could increase property values — and perhaps Qualls’ compensation as a realtor — along its route.
It turns out Qualls had asked for a professional opinion on the ethical issue at least two times before,
but the city solicitor deemed the connection
between Qualls’ work and the streetcar project too indirect and
speculative to present a conflict of interest, according to an email
from City Solicitor John Curp copied to CityBeat and other media outlets.
Kiefer called CityBeat after people on social media discussed CityBeat’s various calls for comment for this story. Kiefer said the images were supposed to be jokes. “You have to have a sense of humor,” he said.
The Cranley campaign says it has and wants nothing to do with Kiefer.
“John (Cranley) wouldn’t know Jim Kiefer if he walked past him in
the street right now. It’s not someone that he’s ever met. It’s not
someone that he’s ever dealt with. It’s not someone that the campaign
has ever dealt with,” says Jay Kincaid, Cranley’s campaign director.
“Whatever his views are don’t reflect those of John.”
Kincaid also points out that Cranley’s record goes against
some of the bigotry perpetuated by Kiefer's posts. While on City Council, Cranley
championed and helped pass an anti-racial profiling ordinance and LGBT
protections in local hate crime laws.
Simpson’s history with Kiefer goes back to at least June,
when Simpson says Kiefer went on a racist tirade against her on Facebook
in the middle of an online discussion over the city’s parking plan. The
discussion has been deleted since then, but Simpson says
Kiefer told her to never return to the West Side of Cincinnati.
This is not the first time Kiefer touted images with bigoted connotations on his Facebook wall. In one instance, he “liked” an image of President Barack Obama in tribal regalia. In another, he posted an image of Barney Frank that mocked the former congressman’s homosexuality.
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.