Political columnist Howard Wilkinson and longtime photographer Michael Keating are among the 26 employees who are leaving The Enquirer as part of a buyout deal.
This week was the deadline for editors at the newspaper to decide whether to accept voluntary “early retirement” buyouts from employees. Although The Enquirer hasn’t released any details, current and former co-workers of Wilkinson and Keating have begun discussing their departures and posting their well wishes on social media sites.
So far, CityBeat’s emails sent this morning seeking comment haven’t been returned.
Gregory Korte, an ex-City Hall reporter at The Enquirer who now works at USA Today, posted, “I grew up reading Howard Wilkinson's politics column in the Cincinnati Enquirer. It's one of the reasons I got into this business, and I was delighted to work and learn alongside him for so long. And Michael E. Keating? The best political photographer I've ever worked with — he could turn a podium shot into pure art. A real reporter's photographer. Now they're both taking a buyout and retiring. The Enquirer has done just fine without me, but I can't imagine it without these two.”
Another former Enquirer reporter, Ben Fischer, posted, “Howard Wilkinson you're one of the all-time greats. And that goes for baseball fandom, general good guys AND political reporters. Everybody's going to miss your prose and insights this election season.”
Wilkinson confirmed the news on Facebook, adding, “Thanks to one an all. It's been a great ride. But you haven't heard the last from me ... or Michael either... Michael and I were a team; and got to see and do some amazing things over the years. I will always be grateful for that.”
The Gannett Co., The Enquirer’s corporate owner, 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.”
Sources at The Enquirer say executives are looking to shed 26 employees at Cincinnati’s only remaining daily newspaper. It is believed that 19 of the positions will come from the newsroom, while six people will be affected in the advertising department, and one person in the online/digital content department.
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.
Here we go again.
After getting her marching orders from parent company executives, EnquirerPublisher Margaret Buchanan told newspaper employees that more layoffs would occur, probably this afternoon.
Reliable sources say between 15 and 18 people would be terminated from Greater Cincinnati's only remaining daily newspaper. Overall, about 2 percent of The Gannett Co.'s total workforce will be eliminated in the latest downsizing.
The Conservation Board staff reviewed the standards required for conditional use and the Anna Louise Inn’s application, concluding that the facility should be allowed to operate as a “special assistance shelter.”
The Board is expected to rule on the permit Aug. 27 after receiving the recommendation and hearing testimony from the Inn’s administrators and supporters. Representatives from Western & Southern Financial Group, which sued the Anna Louise Inn over zoning violations in 2011, will also have an opportunity to testify.
CityBeat last week reported the details of Western & Southern’s failure to purchase the Anna Louise Inn when it had the chance and the company’s subsequent attempts to force the Inn out of the neighborhood (“Surrounded by Skyscrapers", issue of Aug. 15).
Tim Burke, lawyer for the Anna Louise Inn, is pleased with the staff’s determination that the renovation met all qualifications for conditional use.
“I was certainly optimistic that we would get a positive recommendation,” Burke says. “This is obviously an extremely positive recommendation and we agree with it.”
The staff recommendation states that the Anna Louise Inn “creates, maintains and enhances areas for residential developments that complement and support the downtown core” and that “no evidence has been presented of any negative public health, safety, welfare or property injury due to the current use.” It also notes that “the Anna Louise Inn is a point of reference from which all other new and renovated buildings must be designed in order to be compatible with the district.”
The Anna Louise Inn only applied for the conditional use permit because Judge Norbert Nadel ruled in Western & Southern’s favor on May 4, determining that the Inn is a “special assistance shelter” rather than “transitional housing,” which froze $12.6 million in city- and state-distributed loans for the Inn’s planned renovation. The Anna Louise Inn appealed that decision but also applied for the conditional use permit from the Conservation Board under the judge’s definition, because special assistance shelters qualify for conditional use permits under the city’s zoning code.
Francis Barrett, lawyer for Western & Southern, appears to have taken exception to the Anna Louise Inn’s application. He sent a letter to the Conservation Board Aug. 20 stating that “the description of the proposed uses set forth in the application for conditional use approval … is not the same as nor consistent with the Court’s decision.”
Barrett didn't return a message left by CityBeat with the receptionist at his law firm after a Western & Southern media relations representative directed CityBeat to contact him there. Francis Barrett is the brother of Western & Southern CEO John F. Barrett.
UPDATE: Francis Barrett returned CityBeat’s call after this story was published. His comments are at the end.
Burke doesn’t know what Barrett meant by suggesting that the proposed uses in the Anna Louise Inn’s application for conditional use don’t follow Nadel’s May 4 ruling.
“We’re doing what they argued in court,” Burke says. “Judge Nadel’s decision doesn’t ever exactly say ‘you’re a special assistance shelter.’ It certainly refers to the Off the Streets program that way and it certainly refers to (the Anna Louise Inn) as a single unified use. It says ‘go back to the appropriate administrators and seek conditional use approval.’ That’s what we’re doing.”
Stephen MacConnell, president and CEO of Cincinnati Union Bethel, which owns the Anna Louise Inn, says the hearing will involve testimony from himself and Mary Carol Melton, CUB executive vice president, along with supporters of the Anna Louise Inn.
“We’ll bring a few witnesses just to basically lay out the situation,” MacConnell says. “The board will already have the staff recommendation, so the witnesses that we’ll bring will briefly testify about how we meet the required standards.”
Western & Southern will have a chance to appeal if the Historic Conservation Board grants the conditional use permit. Burke expects that to happen.
“What I’m pissed about is Western & Southern, they don’t give a damn,” Burke says. “We can do exactly what Judge Nadel told us to do and get it approved as a conditional use. They will appeal it to the zoning board of appeals. We can win it there and they will appeal it and get it back in front of Judge Nadel and then I don’t know what will happen.”
The hearing is scheduled to take place at 3 p.m. Monday, Aug. 27 at Centennial Plaza Two, 805 Central Ave., Seventh Floor.
UPDATE 5:36 P.M.: Regarding the letter Francis Barrett sent the Conservation Board Aug. 20 stating that “the description of the proposed uses set forth in the application for conditional use approval … is not the same as nor consistent with the Court’s decision,” Barrett said Friday evening: “I just felt that the description in the submission was different from the description in the decision. I would say it was just not complete.”
When asked for specifics, Barrett said: “I’d have to get the decision out and look at it carefully. I don’t have it in front of me I just thought in general.”
Barrett said Western & Southern will give a presentation to the Historic Conservation Board on Monday but declined to elaborate because it wasn’t finalized.
When asked if Western & Southern will appeal a ruling in favor of the Anna Louise Inn, Barrett said: “It all depends what the decision states.”
While Congress has been wrangling back and forth for months about raising the federal minimum wage, the City of Cincinnati is doing what it can to encourage businesses to pay their employees enough to get by.
The Cincinnati Living Wage Employer Initiative will officially recognize employers paying their employees at least $10.10 an hour, the same hike congressional Democrats have been pushing in the House and Senate. The program looks to reward businesses and nonprofits that take the step, providing a website, cincinnatilivingwage.com, where consumers can check to see which businesses pay employees a fair wage.
Though the program is voluntary, the hope is that positive recognition and consumer pressure will encourage businesses to pay employees a wage that allows them to be self-sustaining.
“Although the city of Cincinnati cannot legislate a higher minimum wage–that’s left up to the state–we do feel we have a crucial role to play in creating a culture of living wage employers,” said Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld at an Oct. 2 news conference announcing the initiative, which he’s helped push.
“Cincinnati cannot wait on Congress to take action,” he said. “But our local businesses and organizations can raise their minimum wage voluntarily and immediately, and individuals can make conscientious consumer decisions about spending their money with those employers.”
So far, four organizations, including the city, are listed as partners in the initiative. One is Cincinnati-based Grandin Properties, whose CEO Peg Wyant appeared with Sittenfeld at the Oct. 2 announcement.
Another is Pi Pizza, which is opening its first store in Cincinnati downtown at Sixth and Main Streets on Oct. 13. The company, based in St. Louis, has paid non-tipped workers at its seven locations in Missouri, Washington DC and elsewhere $10.10 an hour for five months. The company looks to employ about 100 people in Cincinnati.
Pi Pizza CEO Chris Sommers estimates about 75 percent of those employees will be hourly and not working for tips, meaning they’ll benefit from the wage boost. Sommers said the increased payroll costs are more than balanced by reduced employee turnover rates and increased productivity.
“We did it without raising prices, and we did it after extensive quantitative and qualitative analysis to make sure we could pay for it and that we could still grow and expand to cities like Cincinnati,” Sommers said of the wage boost.
He encouraged other businesses to make a similar commitment.
“If Pi Pizza can do it, you can do it,” he said. “It’s the right thing to do. It’s good for business–more people walking around, with not only more money to put gas in their cars, more money to get their cars fixed, but also more people to buy pizza. And that’s important, right?”
Boosting the minimum wage has caused a deep debate in the United States. Proponents, including President Barack Obama, who called for the boost to $10.10 during this year’s state of the union address, say that low-wage workers don’t make enough to survive easily or raise families, boosting dependence on government programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps. Opponents, however, including Republicans in Congress like House Speaker John Boehner, say that it will cost businesses more and stifle job growth. Republicans also say that most low-wage jobs are held by high school students, part-time workers who aren’t trying to sustain themselves independently or raise families.
Bureau of Labor Statistics data, however, show that two-thirds of minimum wage workers are over the age of 19. Sommers said that few, if any, of the 107 employees at a recent orientation for Pi Pizza’s Cincinnati location were young students.
The federal minimum wage is currently $7.25, though 23 states, including Ohio, have a higher minimum. The highest wage in the country is in Washington State, where employers must pay adult non-tipped workers at least $9.87. Ohio’s minimum wage is currently $7.95, which will increase to $8.10 in January, thanks to a 2005 constitutional amendment that pegs the state’s minimum to inflation. Even at this new state minimum wage, however, a worker working 40 hours a week will still gross less than $17,000 a year. At $10.10, the same worker would earn $21,000– enough to put a family of three just above the federal poverty level.
“While even the higher hourly wage will leave some people vulnerable, the extra earned income represents the difference between people being able to sustain a basic existence or not,” Sittenfeld said.
No matter what you think about her, you’ve at least got to admire her spunk.
Perennial candidate Sandra “Queen” Noble has suffered another defeat at the polls. Noble ran in the Libertarian Party’s primary Tuesday to be the nominee for Ohio’s 1st Congressional District seat.
Noble received just 20 votes (12.74 percent of ballots cast) and lost to Jim Berns, who got 137 votes (87.26 percent).
Berns will face off against U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Westwood), the Republican incumbent, in the November election. Others in the race are Democratic candidate Jeff Sinnard and Green Party candidate Rich Stevenson.
For comparison, Chabot got 57,005 votes in Tuesday’s primary, while Sinnard got 4,509 and Stevenson got 91.
Regular CityBeat readers are familiar with Noble, who ran as an independent last year for Cincinnati City Council. She received 2,726 votes, and finished in 21st place.
During that election, Noble responded to CityBeat’s questionnaire to candidates, but her answers didn’t always connect to the queries posed. For example, when she was asked about a garbage fee proposed by City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr., Noble replied, “He's a morpher, over-charging folks for the grand larceny committed by public and staff officials dipping in the till. In '05, I ran for mayor. I offered a guaranteed cure for male-pattern baldness. I'd still do Mr. Dohoney, damn!”
Also, she became known for her unusual public appearances and actions on the campaign trail, such as dressing in a makeshift cat tail and cat ears, and drawing whiskers on her face. In a candidate biography, she described herself as a “fashion designer in Walnut Hills who designs tails, which she wears.”
At one memorable candidate forum, Noble left the room by walking across the table tops where people were seated in the audience. She also has a personal injury lawsuit against the “Stolen United States of America,” in which she’s seeking “$994 trillion” in damages.
Noble, 56, previously ran unsuccessfully for Cincinnati mayor in 2005, receiving 121 votes; and for Congress in Washington, D.C., in 2010, receiving 785 votes.
Additionally, she was a candidate for U.S. president in 2004 and 2008, ran for mayor in Las Vegas and Los Angeles, and ran for Los Angeles City Council, according to Project Vote Smart.
Leslie Ghiz has angered some Occupy Cincinnati supporters by posting on her Facebook page the home and email address of one individual and the email address of another who criticized her for pressuring City Manager Milton Dohoney to kick the protesters out of the park. The two individuals wrote to Ghiz's campaign, according to Ghiz.
Have something to say that’s more significant about what’s going on in the world than where to find the cheapest beer or what the woman next to you is wearing? Then put those thoughts down on paper and submit them to the 2009 annual Book of Poems and Drawings on Peace and Justice.
The first step is a call for poets to focus on the themes of peace and justice. Here are the pesky details:
* Poet may submit up to three poems.
* All submissions will be considered. The editors will be looking for quality, inclusiveness, and appropriateness to the themes of peace and justice.
* If space becomes limited, priority will be given to poets not published in previous books. (This is the sixth annual book.)
* Poems selected will be illustrated in black and white by Greater Cincinnati artists (one drawing per poet).
* Poems and illustrations will be printed in For a Better World 2009 slated for publication in May 2009.
Send submissions as “Word” attachments (or in full text) by e-mail or by U.S. mail (on a CD) to:
Saad Ghosn: email@example.com or 216 Erkenbrecher Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45229
Submission deadline: Feb. 25, 2009
The book will be launched and available for sale at “SOS ART” and “poets included in book will be invited to read their poems at SOS ART,” according to publisher and event organizer Saad Ghosn.
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.