Detroit Free Press, News offer buyouts to staffers

Crain’s Detroit Business
Buyouts were offered to 155 people at the Detroit Free Press, the Detroit News and the Detroit Media Partnership, which oversees their joint business operations.

Alan Lenhoff, director of project management and corporate communications with the Detroit Media Partnership, told Poynter that employees age 56 and up who have worked at the papers for 20 or more years will be eligible. The offer includes two weeks pay for each year at the paper (capped at 52 weeks) and health insurance. Some people who are eligible may not be allowed to accept the buyout, Lenhoff said, depending on how many people want to take it from each department.

Lenhoff told Poynter he expects less than half of eligible employees to accept the buyout. “It’s a total win-win because we would like to reduce some expenses, and it’s an excellent opportunity for people who are close to retirement to make that possible for themselves,” he said by phone.

As for layoffs, Lenhoff said: “I don’t think anyone in any company would tell you that layoffs are out of consideration. I’m not going to speculate on what the future might bring, but I do know that this is a good deal and we expect a lot of interest.”

Staff reduction at the papers was expected. Earlier this month, the Free Press, which publishes with the Detroit News via a Joint Operating Agreement, moved into Gannett’s Community Publishing Division, which left the paper more vulnerable to cuts. In June, Detroit Free Press Publisher Paul Anger told staffers that he expected layoffs would happen. The Detroit papers are printed daily, but reduced home delivery in 2009 to three days a week. The latest circulation figures show the Free Press with some of the largest losses in daily circulation, down 6.27 percent.

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