At a staff meeting at the Lakeland Ledger Tuesday evening, employees were told to tear up the controversial noncompete agreement because it would not apply to them. The Florida paper's publisher, Jerome Ferson, told the newsroom that signing the noncompete would be required of new Halifax Media Group employees, but not former New York Times Regional journalists transitioning to their new owner. The announcement was met with applause. I have confirmed with a journalist at a different Halifax property that this reversal applies to the editorial and business staff at all 16 of the news organizations purchased from The New York Times Company last week. The same waiver applies to Halifax's nepotism policy, which would have prevented family members from working in the same newsroom. That too will affect only new employees, not former NYTRG staff. (Memo after the jump) ||  Earlier: Lawyers question overreaching noncompete, 'Where's the journalist who leaves Halifax supposed to get a job?' (Poynter)

Memo sent to us Tuesday evening:

From: McFarlin, Diane
Sent: Tuesday, January 10, 2012 6:04 PM
To: !STHQ-Sarasota Users
Subject: good news


Michael Redding has decided to waive the non-compete clause and the family relationship policies for all existing employees. In other words, you have been “grandfathered in.” This means you do not have to sign the non-compete agreement and, if you are working in the same department as a spouse, sibling or other immediate family member, you can continue to do so.

I am sure there will be more information forthcoming, but I wanted you to receive this news immediately.

It should be noted that these policies will apply for all new hires going forward.

Thanks to all of you who participated in today’s town hall. Clearly, Michael heard your concerns and considered them carefully.