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Westchester reveals restructuring plan

Gannettoid.com | news@gannettoid.com | Posted: Aug. 13, 2009 • Morning report

One of Gannett's worst-performing newspapers in the circulation trends category announced Wednesday it would be undergoing a major staff restructuring.

The Westchester County Journal News in New York plans to eliminate 70 staff positions by the end of August, a month when the paper has already laid off 57 employees.

Including six layoffs in July, the paper will end the summer with 133 fewer staff positions than it had at the start.

According to internal corporate documents obtained by Gannettoid.com, Westchester's circulation declined 16 percent from June 2008 to June 2009.

According to the Audit Bureau of Circulations, Westchester had an average weekday circulation of 95,389 for the six-month period that ended in March. The 16-percent decline ranks as the 66th worst drop on a list of 80 properties listed in the Gannett document. Gannett owns 84 daily newspapers, but the document does not include USA Today. It also combines two California papers (Tulare Advance-Register and Visalia Times-Delta) into one listing and separates two Michigan papers (Detroit Free Press and Livingston County Daily Press & Argus) from the list entirely.

The paper is in the middle of the pack for Sunday declines with a 9.1-percent drop over that time period.

Employees to interview to not be laid off

The latest layoffs will come after 288 employees (192 editorial, 96 advertising) are invited to interview for 217 available positions. Employees who are not selected to fill one of the openings will be laid off at the end of August. The paper has said there will be about 50 fewer positions in the newsroom and 20 fewer in advertising.

Employees who are laid off will receive the same severance package as other employees who have been laid off in the current round of layoffs throughout the company. The company does not refer to the package as "severance," but it is supplemental pay that, when added with the person's unemployment payment, pays the difference between that payment and the employees' usual weekly pay for one week equal to every year of service with the company, with a minimum of three weeks and a maximum of 36.

According to a story by The New York Times, Westchester publisher Michael Fisch said the paper would be left with a staff of about 700 after these cuts.

Employees need to apply for these new positions by Friday on the paper's intranet jobs page. Interviews will be conducted the week of Aug. 17.

Pulitzer Prize winner said to be among cuts (update, the paper kept Davies)

Rob Tornoe reported on the blog, Daryl Cagle's Political Cartoonists Index (Cagle.com), that Matt Davies will be one of the employees cut.

Davies, a Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist with the Journal News, reported on his Facebook page, "As of August 28th, the position of editorial cartoonist at The Journal News is defunct."

Davies won the Pulitzer Prize in 2004 for his “piercing cartoons on an array of topics, drawn with a fresh, original style,” according to the story on Cagle.com. Davies also won the inaugural Herblock Prize in 2004 and the Robert F. Kennedy Award in 2001.

Davies' page on the Journal News' Web site says an interactive gallery of his cartoons is "Coming soon."

Reporter to Times: There's 'not enough people'

A reporter with the Journal News who was quoted by The Times, but not identified, said, "It seemed obvious that a lot of the local communities we cover will get shorted on coverage, mainly because there’s not enough people."

The reporter said the process of matching news jobs that have been posted with the current titles is confusing. "For example, there are no photo jobs listed, but ‘visual specialists,’ ” the reporter told The Times.

The paper's own online jobs site has the jobs that have been posted.

Here is the memo:

From: Michael Fisch, Journal News president and publisher

We have now completed the restructuring plans for our operationsin Westchester. I know the waiting has been difficult and I appreciate your patience as we finalized the details of these plans.

Last week, we announced a number of job eliminations in support departments, whichhelped move us toward a more sustainable cost structure. Today we're announcing the changes which will occur in the advertising sales and Information Center. These changes are structured to prepare this organization to support future changes to The Journal News, better position us for the digital transition, and to reposition the organization to be successful.

To ensure that we have the appropriate people with the right skills for us to becompetitive in today's multi-platform environment, we will begin a process where employees in these two departments will have an opportunity to apply for these newly defined positions. Each employee impacted by these changes will be notified today whether they will need to apply for a position in the restructured sales and Information Center departments. These changes will result in a reduction of approximately 20 advertising and 50 Information Center positions. These changes will be completed by the end of August.

Part of these changes will be the implementation of the combined Universal Desk operations between Poughkeepsie and Westchester. Employees from Poughkeepsie who are involved with their news and sports copy desks and their design staff will have an opportunity to apply for positions on the Universal Desk in Westchester.

If you have any questions please contact Minnie Stanley in Human Resources at X5169.


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