Cleveland Plain Dealer tells Guild it plans to cut about one-third of newsroom staff

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In a note posted on Facebook, Guild members say the Advance-owned Cleveland Plain Dealer has told them it plans to eliminate about one-third of the staff in 2013.

Harlan Spector, chairman of the newspaper’s unit of the Northeast Ohio Newspaper Guild, said by phone that the paper would be cutting 58 positions from a Guild group of about 168. Those people would be laid off or offered positions with Cleveland.com. Some managers will also be laid off, Spector said, but the Guild is not privy to those numbers.

The changes would come after the latest contract — which prohibits layoffs — expires on January 31, 2013.

Friends and supporters, we wanted to let you know that The Plain Dealer has told the Guild it plans to reduce the number of Guild members in the newsroom to 110 next year. Guild members are the heart of the paper. They report, photograph, copyedit, design, draw, create graphics, archive information, edit and so much more. The reductions, which represent about 1/3 of our membership, would be devastating to the news-gathering operation. The paper said most of the reduction would be through layoffs, though some employees will be offered jobs at cleveland.com. They will not say how many or what those jobs would be. The Plain Dealer is pressing for the ability to handpick who stays and who goes.

The company also wants to reduce the newsroom by at least 20 more positions in the following years. Makes us wonder how that equals the quality of journalism Plain Dealer leaders have been publicly promising.

Staff at the news organization started a multimedia “Save the Plain Dealer” campaign last month, with a billboard, bus ads, print ads and more. At the time, the journalists knew layoffs were coming, but not how many.

“We know what the community wants,” Spector said. “We’re the ones that are listening to the community. We’ve heard from thousands of people on our Facebook page and on our petition site and in person, in forums” all over town. “I’ve not talked to one person who thinks these cuts are a good idea.”

Advance has reduced staff and print frequency at The (Harrisburg, Pa.) Patriot-News, The (Syracuse, N.Y.) Post-Standard, its papers in Alabama and Michigan, and of course at the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

In May, when the changes in New Orleans and Alabama were announced, Spector told Poynter, “We are thankful to have some contractual protections. But no one’s naïve enough to think that we’re going to be spared for eternity the ravages, the things that have happened to other people. We all see what’s going on.”

Advance.net chairman Steve Newhouse told Poynter in August, “We’re facing the same conditions everywhere … We’re looking at every market and trying to figure out what the right model is. We have local teams doing it because the conditions are different in different markets, but our goal everywhere is to come up with a formula where we can see a long-term future.”

There may be similar changes ahead at The Advance-owned Oregonian.

A Cleveland brewery is introducing a “7-Day Lager” at a party Thursday to save the Plain Dealer and honor the staff.

The paper has not informed the Guild whether it plans to cut the number of days in print, said Spector. As to whether it’s possible to print seven days with a smaller staff, “It depends on what you’re putting out 7 days a week,” he said.

“Certainly we’re bracing for some announcement that they’re gonna cut the days of publication. We hope they listen to the people of greater Cleveland and make another decision. If they’re listening to their customers and readers, they’ll rethink this.”

Spector said another possibility is that they will print between three and seven days, but cut home delivery to three days, as the Detroit Free Press did several years ago. That option was mentioned by Publisher Terry Egger, after he announced his retirement.

Egger and Plain Dealer Editor Debra Adams Simmons published a note to readers two weeks ago, announcing a “significant reset of our business.”

“The job cuts that they’ve announced are a bad sign,” Spector said Tuesday.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/pat.geary.3 Pat Geary

    Liberal rags going down everywhere-too funny