Halifax noncompete will not apply to New York Times Regional employees

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

Everyone:

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.

Onward!
Diane

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  • Anonymous

    you are exactly correct. i worked at a small, locally owned daily in metropolitan atlanta once, and that paper was guilty of every anti-ethics example you mention, sometimes  more, much more. further, its ownership was decidedly right wing, which embarrassed its young, idealistic, poorly paid staff. there are newspapers like that all over the country, now more so with the halifax purchase. most of them don’t get much attention because they are too small for anyone in ny and dc to notice, much less care about. but they are there, they are growing in number, and they are having significant influence on the political and values debate in this country.

  • Anonymous

    Someone needs to get to the “why” behind Halifax floating this highly restrictive proposal. One reason perhaps is the budding flaglerlive.com site, which is now a thorn in the side of the Daytona News-Journal and MIchael Redding– and was created by an editor who left after Redding’s arrival. Halifax understands that if you buy local papers, gut them and fill them with watered down, rose-colored news, you may make some advertisers temporarily happy, but then you’ll leave yourself wide open to competition–because your readers won’t be so delighted.

    I’d say it’s a wise decision to retract the policy anyway (not likely it would hold water, and not worth the bad publicity), but the important thing is, Halifax has made a loud and clear statement that it is deeply concerned it won’t be able to hold its own in a competitive environment. Internet venture capitalists and investors, and talented journalists, take note.

  • http://www.poynter.org Poynter

    I’m not a lawyer so I can’t offer legal advice, but based on what I’ve learned I’d say journalists who think they might want to leave the company and work elsewhere should seek an exemption or negotiate specifically about what counties would be covered by the non-compete or whether they’d be compensated somehow for signing it. Most importantly, they should show the agreement to a lawyer for review, because s/he will be able to offer specific advice unique to that person’s situation. –Julie

  • http://www.smallbusinessgrants.net/small-business-grants/ Small Business Grant

    Halifax Media group recently bought the New York Times-owned Regional Media Group, to which the Hendersonville Times-News belongs. According to the Poynter Institute, Halifax is requiring that employees retained by their new employer sign an agreement which empowers Halifax to fire them at any time while also preventing them from working for media companies “in any other city with a Halifax property for two years.

  • http://zombiejournalism.com/ Mandy Jenkins

    So, in other words, journalists who like being employed probably shouldn’t apply for jobs at this company in the future?

  • http://twitter.com/BarnGroover Barn Groover

    It should by now be clear that the owners of Halifax Media are engaged in jihad against traditional (i.e. liberal) journalism. To acquire an entire division of The New York Times is a wet dream of the far right. Notice that they steered the editorial and news pages of their first acquisition – the Daytona Beach News Journal – immediately rightward. Watchdog journalism was jettisoned and replaced by a relentless pro-business drumbeat. Do you think the same plans are not in place for the newly acquired papers? You will also notice the new company made no effort to communicate to the newsgathering staffs before the acquisitions. While there were no immediate layoffs, there were also no reassurances that Michael Redding and company have any respect whatsoever for their reporting staffs or even the mission of news reporting. That’s because they intend to use their reporters to reward their biggest advertisers and fill pages between the ads – nothing more and nothing less. Their two-year rule at the Daytona paper has been through coercion and intimidation, as foreshadowed in the new employee handbook: You are an at-will employee who can be fired at any time for any reason. Don’t forget it. None of the public statements by Halifax so far convey a respect for or intention to continue the traditions of an independent press. The strategy here, in addition to maximizing ad revenues and strengthening the value of the properties as marketing vehicles, is to eviscerate the power of low-paid and high-minded journalists so they can no longer hinder the agendas of the owners’ political and business cronies.