The media crunch | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The media crunch

Posted By on Tue, Jan 13, 2009 at 4:51 PM

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette is not immune to the economic downturn that has wracked national media. But I give them credit for trying to temper the impact. A memo to staff passed along to me gives you the idea.

The newspaper is seeking voluntary reductions in hours and days to avoid straight layoffs.

When I confirmed it with newspaper President Paul Smith, he said, "We're trying to come up with every way we can to cut costs without having to go into a big layoff." He noted that most other media companies in Arkansas and elsewhere have had to resort to layoffs, some significant, to cope.

"We'll get through this period," he said. "But it hurts to see our customers hurting."

M E M O R A N D U M

FROM: Paul R. Smith

TO: All Employees

DATE: January 13, 2009

SUBJECT: Reducing Expenses

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette is going into the worst quarter in the history of the newspaper. During the first quarter, newsprint expenses are at an all-time record high, some 30% higher than the same period one year ago. In addition, our revenue is off due to the faltering economy and the economic downturn. This is also true for television stations, radio stations and other print publications throughout Arkansas, and most of them have implemented layoffs and other cost saving measures.

Many of our advertisers continue to run with us, and continue to get results, but many of them have had to reduce the amount of advertising due to the economic conditions.

We have to find a way to reduce expenses more than we have already. We have cut expenses in many areas and are continuing to look for other ways to improve productivity and reduce costs. But since our largest single cost is payroll, we have to find some way to reduce it, at least until business improves.

 

So far we have avoided any across-the-board layoffs like most other newspapers.

 

At this time, and before having to decide if such cuts will be necessary, we want to offer some voluntary plans which might help us to reduce payroll expenses.

We would consider any employee who is willing, at least temporarily, to reduce their workdays to four days a week, reducing their hours from 40 hours a week to 32 hours a week, with compensation reduced accordingly. Health care insurance would remain in force.

Similarly, we would also consider employees who might want to voluntarily reduce their workday. For example, if some employees wanted to reduce their workday from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. instead of 5:00 p.m., and reduce their workweek from 40 hours a week to 30 hours a week by doing this, we would consider such requests.

We would modify our policy so health care insurance would remain in force for those working 30 hours a week or more.

As mentioned above, these programs would be totally voluntary at this time. For employees who make these requests, which are accepted, we would consider future requests to increase hours once business has improved and is back to normal levels.

Any other suggestions employees might have for reducing hours or costs would be appreciated.

We have seen modest savings with the wage and hiring freeze, but these savings are not large enough given the economic downturn. Hopefully these voluntary measures will provide enough additional savings to maintain our financial strength and allow us to weather the economic downturn.

Please let me or your supervisor or department head know if you are willing to reduce your work hours per week.

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