Articles about "Layoffs/buyouts/staff cuts"


How mass layoffs in 2013 changed the lives of former Plain Dealer staffers

On July 31, 2013, after the layoff calls came, some of the current and now-former staff of The Plain Dealer got together for drinks at Market Garden Brewery in Cleveland. Newsrooms around the country called in and bought drinks for those gathered — $4,933 worth of drinks, Eric Sandy reported the next day for Cleveland Scene.

That day, more than 50 people had been laid off from The Plain Dealer.

“We drank for free all night,” John Horton remembered.

“It was bittersweet because we were together, we were supporting each other but we knew that so many of us, myself included, were not going to be going back to the building ever again,” Ellen Kleinerman said.

Plain Dealer staff gather on July 31, 2013, layoff day. (Photograph by Lisa DeJong)

Plain Dealer staff gathered on layoff day: July 31, 2013. (Photograph by Lisa DeJong)

Kleinerman and Horton were there. So were Donald Rosenberg and John Mangels. One guy, Harlan Spector remembers, drove up from Pittsburgh just to lend a shoulder if needed. “It’s so touching that somebody would feel compelled to do that,” he said.

“It was strange, I guess it was sort of like a wake in a way, but everybody was very compassionate about everyone else’s situation,” Rosenberg, who covered arts and wine for the paper, said. “The people that survived were very empathetic of the people who were leaving. The people who were leaving were very concerned about what was going to happen next.”

“Our emotions were pretty raw, as you can imagine,” Mangels said. Although he said the night was “a bit of a blur, unfortunately,” he, too, remembers that it “felt like a wake,” but also a graduation. And more notable: “We didn’t talk shop, which was the normal topic when journalists gather. We talked about ourselves and our families, our fears and hopes for the future. I remember talking to one of the graphic artists, a talented guy who was hoping to reinvent himself as a long-haul trucker.”

“I think everyone realized that things were changing,” Horton said. “In a way you’re saying goodbye to a lot of people and the way things were and going into an unknown territory.”

“I think we all were aware that it was the last time we’d be together as newspaper journalists, but that we’d always share that bond,” Mangels said.

One year later, we’ve caught up with some of those journalists who were laid off from The Plain Dealer. We couldn’t get every story, and we’d like to hear more: Email if you have one to share.

John Horton: ‘I was making a long-term decision’

John Horton (submitted photo)

John Horton (submitted photo)

Being a reporter was John Horton’s dream job. In elementary school, he delivered the paper for three years, lugging the heavy bag with newspapers up and down Cleveland streets. He worked at The Plain Dealer for 14 years. During the last five years, Horton wrote a column called “Road Rant,” writing about people’s complaints about issues including bad roads and potholes. One year ago, Horton took a voluntary buyout.

“I was making a long term decision,” he said.

“I was going to bet on what they were doing, or I was going to bet on my ability to transition into another career.”

A few weeks later, Horton started his current job in media relations at Cuyahoga Community College. Now, he still works with journalists and looks for good stories. Horton didn’t leave with hard feelings, he said.

“I loved every day that I was there.”

After the layoffs, Horton started running with his 13-year-old son. It cleared his head. He still runs nearly every day, has lost 20 pounds in the past year and ran a half-marathon. He truly enjoys what he’s doing now, he said, but “to be honest, there aren’t a lot of of jobs that are cooler than being a reporter. I mean, that’s what Superman was.”

“I miss the daily challenge that you had, the feeling that you were doing something larger that made a big difference, fighting that fight every day,” Horton said. “I think journalism is one of the few jobs that really has that aspect to it.”

He doesn’t miss the situation at The Plain Dealer or the stress, though. No job comes with guarantees, but for him, the day-to-day worries about what was coming next were too much.

“Leaving that was a relief.”

Ellen Kleinerman: ‘It was a calling’

(Ellen Kleinerman, submitted photo.)

(Ellen Kleinerman, submitted photo.)

Ellen Kleinerman didn’t realize how stressful the months leading up to the layoffs were until it was all over. Kleinerman, who worked for The Plain Dealer for 14 years, did not volunteer for the layoffs.

“I was just an emotional mess,” she said. “It wasn’t just a job for me. It was a career. It was a calling. It was something that I would get up every day and feel like, this is what I want to do. It just was more than a job.”

Kleinerman, who covered medical issues when the layoffs happened, did a lot of networking after she recovered from the news. She freelanced. Then, in February, she drove for an hour through a snowstorm to get to calling hours for a friend’s mother. The whole time she thought, “I’m really crazy to do this. I should just turn around. She’ll understand if I don’t attend. But it’s the right thing to do.”

There, Kleinerman bumped into another colleague who was starting a new job at a chain of weekly newspapers. That chain was looking for a new editor.

One month after applying, Kleinerman went in for an interview.

“So now I’m in newspapers again,” she said. “It’s different, but it’s exciting.”

Kleinerman is the editor of the Chagrin Valley Times, the Solon Times and the Geauga Courier.

Kleinerman has seen a lot of change in 30 years as a reporter and editor. She still reads The Plain Dealer, and she misses it. But she doesn’t miss the stress.

“I guess there’s life after The Plain Dealer,” she said. “And it can be an OK life.”

Bob Fortuna: ‘I don’t miss it. How sad is that?’

About five months after high school sports reporter Bob Fortuna left The Plain Dealer, he was selected for the Ohio Prep Sportswriters Association Hall of Fame alongside his former colleague, Tim Rogers.

A story about the honor ran at, but no reporter at the newspaper reached out to him for it. Still, said Fortuna, who covered high schools for 36 years and worked at The Plain Dealer since 1990, “It was a nice way to finish.”

Bob Fortuna

Bob Fortuna

Now, Fortuna’s a one-man interior painting and landscaping business. A realtor friend has set him up with clients, and he’s getting work from former Plain Dealer colleagues, too.

“Since I was at The Plain Dealer, I haven’t seen the chiropractor once,” he said. “I used to go once a month.” His headaches are gone, and he dropped 25 pounds. “Mentally and physically, this is the best I’ve felt in 15 years.”

Since volunteering to leave, Fortuna has turned 60 and celebrated 30 years of marriage with his wife. “There is life after The Plain Dealer, believe it or not,” he said. “And that life ain’t too bad, either.”

Fortuna misses the athletes and the coaches from his beat, but says he doesn’t miss dealing with parents and the media frenzy around National Signing Day.

And when it comes to painting, Fortuna immediately knew that was the path forward after ending his career at a job that was increasingly demanding. He always enjoyed painting — “I just never had the time to do it,” he said. “With the social media thing, they want you 24/7. You don’t have a life.” His wife “saw what it was doing to me. She said, ‘you gotta get outta there.’” So he volunteered to go.

“People ask me if I miss it, and I don’t miss it,” he said. “How sad is that?”

John Mangels: ‘I think we had some success’

John Mangels

John Mangels

“I’m still kind of coming to terms with the fact that I’m not and probably never will be again a newspaper journalist,” John Mangels said. Mangels found a job as a communications manager for the Cleveland Clinic after a couple months of looking.

“I was fairly fortunate,” Mangels said. The time off “was tough psychologically, but I was fortunate to go back,” he said. At the new gig, he oversees production of more than 10 print products.

“I use a lot of the same muscles that I did as a newspaper journalist,” Mangels said.

Mangels volunteered for the layoffs list but said he found the job market to be “grim.”

“For someone who has skills that I thought would be translatable … people weren’t beating a path to my door, let’s just say it that way.” He said he was “really lucky to thread the needle. I found a job in Cleveland,” one he not only likes but that lets him continue to write.

Mangels was a science writer for the newspaper and helped organize a campaign called Save The Plain Dealer, a preemptive strike against any plans to cut staff at The Plain Dealer. The paper’s owner, Advance, had made wrenching changes at many of its other properties as it prepared to become a digitally focused organization.

“We’d known, deep down, from the beginning of the campaign that the odds of preserving the paper as it existed were long, probably impossible,” Mangels said. “But it was important to us to try — to alert the community to what was happening, and to try to mitigate some of the more drastic things Advance was planning. I think we had some success.”

John Luttermoser: Working on projects with meaning

John Luttermoser

John Luttermoser

John Luttermoser worked at The Plain Dealer for 21 years as a copy editor. Before that he worked at the St. Petersburg Times. Now he’s “working part-time as business administrator for the Presbytery of the Western Reserve, a regional group of Presbyterian Church (USA) congregations in the Cleveland area,” he writes in an email. “I’m also doing some free-lance editing and I’ve continued my volunteer work as secretary of the board for the Dougbe River Presbyterian School, which opened in 2012 in a remote region of eastern Liberia that didn’t previously have a school.”
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Peggy Turbett: ‘Photography has never been more important’

Peggy Turbett (submitted photo)

Peggy Turbett (submitted photo)

Peggy Turbett worked for 13 years as a staff photographer at The Plain Dealer. Her first plan, after learning she’d been laid off, was to work as a reading tutor at an elementary school once a week, “to decompress, I guess, and then figure out the rest as it came along,” she said in an email.

That tutoring gig turned into an after-school camera club that met twice a week for four months. During the time, she said, she got a call asking if she’d teach photojournalism at John Carroll University. A colleague from The Plain Dealer who also taught there suggested Turbett.

“That kind of networking has been crucial,” she said. “If someone asked me to lunch or dinner, I went. Invited to join a local professional women’s group – I did. I also filled out my camera gear with an additional camera body and long lens to handle professional freelance assignments. In the past year I’ve photographed weddings, anniversaries, holiday portraits, high school sports programs, and magazine stories.”

Now, she has several photo projects and continues teaching as an adjunct. Turbett misses the salary and benefits, but not the schedule.

“The interesting dichotomy is that photography has never been more important – visuals are needed in every industry and social media outlet,” Turbett said. “But the prospect for veteran photojournalists to find jobs at daily newspapers is grim to none, from what I’ve seen. The New York Daily News just laid off David Handschuh, with three decades of experience, a former president of NPPA, and who was gravely injured while covering the 9/11 World Trade Center attack for the paper. I mean, really, how can any staff photojournalist feel safe?”

Scott Shaw: Business is booming

Scott Shaw worked at The Plain Dealer for 23 years. He writes in an email: “I’ve been very busy working on my wedding and portrait photography business. I started about five years ago on the side in anticipation of the industry issues. I volunteered to be laid off and it has been a fun challenge! I plan on doing more commercial and photojournalism work in the future but right now I don’t have spare time for that.”

Margaret Bernstein: Making a living ‘while doing good’

(Margaret Bernstein, submitted)

(Margaret Bernstein, submitted)

Margaret Bernstein was a few weeks away from her 24th anniversary with the Plain Dealer when she took the voluntary buyout. Bernstein wrote a column twice a week that was “solution-oriented,” she said in an email, informing people how they could make a difference in the city, “particularly with helping people get out of poverty.”

Her job led to research on issues such as literacy and parent mentoring, and Bernstein thought with all she knew, she could make a living while “doing good.”

“I am now a self-employed consultant, and my ‘call to action’ style has become my brand,” Bernstein said. “I helped design and am currently promoting a ‘Top 10 Ways You Can Improve Literacy In Greater Cleveland’ campaign for a local organization, The Literacy Cooperative. I’m also facilitating the spread of the Little Free Library ‘movement’ in Cleveland.” She’s also working to finish a book she has spent 12 years working on about Cleveland activist Yvonne Pointer. Read more

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Nelson Mandela

The New Yorker still fact-checks more than you do

mediawiremorningGood morning. Here are 10 (or so) media stories.

  1. What happened between NBC News and Ayman Mohyeldin? NBC News said Friday it would return the reporter to Gaza. (HuffPost) | The clumsy move was less a conspiracy than a “news division making mistakes through ratings nervousness.” (CNN) | Here’s a Mohyeldin report from this morning. (NBC News)
  2. The new launches: “The Web site already publishes fifteen original stories a day. We are promising more, as well as an even greater responsiveness to what is going on in the world.” (The New Yorker) | The publication assigns one fact-checker to its website: “And not to be defensive, but that’s one more fact-checker than probably anyone else has,” Editor David Remnick says. (Capital) | OH NO, A LISTICLE: The New Yorker tweets “eight things we think you’ll love” about the new site. (@NewYorker)
  3. Russian media broadcasts conspiracy theories about downed plane: “The Russian media space has become so uniform and independent voices so cowed and marginalized that there is no counterweight.” (The New Republic) | Russian-government funded English-language network RT reacts to reporter Sara Firth‘s resignation: “apparently we have different definitions of truth” (The Washington Post) | Firth: “I don’t think there are different definitions and versions of the truth.” (CNN) | Propaganda broadcasts in Russia “has become a problem for Putin, because this system cannot be wholly managed.” (The New Yorker)
  4. The New York Daily News is an “insane asylum”: That’s according to photographer David Handschuh, one of the 17 newsroom employees laid off Friday. The paper’s “photo desk was hit particularly hard,” Joe Pompeo reports: “Some sources even wonder if the News might be getting ready to scale back or eventually eliminate its print edition.” (Capital)
  5. How Rupert Murdoch could pay more for Time Warner: Use cash from sale of some German and Italian assets. (Bloomberg) | Henry Blodget: “one of Time Warner’s pieces of logic in saying ‘No thanks’ to the original offer is that two to three down the road, they think there will be many other potential acquirers.” (CNN) | 21st Century Fox has also looked at Scripps Networks and Univision (NYT) | Jack Shafer: “Murdoch looks a lot like the 1990s newspaper publishers who continued to buy other papers on the assumption that the moat…would support their near-monopoly profits infinitely.” But streaming video means “The moat has sprung a leak.” (Reuters)
  6. Cops and security guards hassle BuzzFeed reporter for taking pictures of buildings: Policies that permit photography haven’t quite filtered down to the muscle. (BuzzFeed)
  7. Copy editors aren’t all jazzed about “Weird Al”‘s “Word Crimes” video: “A huge segment of people aren’t viewing it as parody; they appear to be viewing it as their new grammar snob anthem. They’re identifying with feeling superior by calling other people stupid.” (ACES) | Watch the video. (Poynter)
  8. How to keep people on your site in a post-homepage world: Time, NBC News and the Los Angeles Times’ websites have all been “redesigned with an eye toward that second click or page view.” (Poynter) | Related: Yahoo and Say Media are launching “online magazines” to “remind advertisers that these are high-quality, editor-driven products with real audiences, not just listicles.” (Digiday)
  9. Here’s today’s world news, edited by Kristen Hare: Thai journalists want more freedoms, Amy Sawitta Lefevre reported Monday for Reuters. “The military said in an order late last week it could shut down any media that disseminates information that ‘could harm national security’ or criticizes the work of the ruling military council,” Sawitta Lefevre reported. | A journalist with Sky News went through a piece of luggage from the MH17 crash while on air, Catherine Taibi reported Sunday in the Huffington Post. Midway through, Colin Brazier realized that wasn’t a good idea and stopped. | has a Twitter list of people covering MH17. (I have a growing list, too.)
  10. Job moves, edited by Benjamin Mullin: Amy Ellis Nutt will head to The Washington Post in September to be a science writer. Formerly, she was an enterprise writer for The (Newark, New Jersey) Star-Ledger. (The Washington Post) | Jason Taylor, president of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, has been named the publisher of The (Jackson, Mississippi) Clarion-Ledger. (The Clarion-Ledger) | Paula Faris will be a weekend co-anchor at “Good Morning America.” She was previously an ABC News correspondent. (Paula Faris) | Bianna Golodryga will leave “Good Morning America” to join Katie Couric at Yahoo News, where she’ll help coordinate coverage of daily news as well as major business and finance stories. (Yahoo News) | Natalie Zmuda has been promoted to deputy managing editor at Advertising Age. She was previously a reporter and editor there. (@nzmuda) | Chris Gardner will join The Hollywood Reporter as a staff writer. Formerly, he was a staff editor at Wonderwall/MSN. (Muck Rack) | Nick Ciletti will be a weekend anchor at ABC15 in Phoenix. Formerly, he was an anchor and reporter at NBC2 in southwest Florida. (Nick Ciletti) | Danielle Lerner will be an anchor at NBC2 in Phoenix. Formerly, she was an anchor at KVOA in Tucson, Arizona. (TVSpy) | Job of the day: NPR is looking for a senior digital editor for race, policy and social issues. Get your résumés in! | Send Ben your job moves:

Suggestions? Corrections? Would like me to send you this roundup each morning? Please email me: Read more


Editor fired for Reddit shenanigans, BuzzFeed editors don’t shout

mediawiremorningGood morning. Here are 10 media stories for the day before your long weekend. And from Sam Kirkland, your daily digital stories.

  1. Editor fired for gaming Reddit: Rod “Slasher” Breslau was fired from CBS Interactive’s esports site OnGamers after he was “caught asking other users to post his stories to Reddit with specific headlines,” Patrick Howell O’Neill reports. Reddit has banned OnGamers as a result, resulting in a loss of half its traffic. (The Daily Dot) || Related: How to get your news site banned from Reddit (Poynter)
  2. These media companies drug-test their employees: The Washington Post, The New York Times and McClatchy all want you to fill a cup. (Gawker)
  3. Voice of America journalists don’t want to be mouthpieces: Their union endorsed a change to the organization’s charter that would require VOA to “actively support American policy,” Ron Nixon reports. (NYT)
  4. NYPD’s public records policy gets law wrong: It says it has 10 days to reply. The law says 5. (Capital) || FREEKY FLASHBAKK: NYPD stops giving journalists crime reports at precincts (Poynter)
  5. USPS cuts could affect weekly newspapers: National Newspaper Association President Robert M. Williams Jr. wrote Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe to protest USPS’ plan to close 82 mail-processing plants. “NNA firmly believes that mail service to rural and small-town America is critical to local economies. We will not stand by quietly when it is put at risk.” (The Rural Blog)
  6. Murdoch money flows to Clintons: “Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox/News Corp has given more than $3 million to Bill and Hillary Clinton over the past 22 years.” (Politico)
  7. The New York Times has already closed a lot of blogs: It has “ended or merged about half of the 60 or so blogs that it had at the high point two years ago, and there may be about another 10 to go,” Margaret Sullivan writes. But “nothing is on the chopping block at this moment.” (NYT) || The Times prizes collaboration, and good blogs emerge from “from isolation and lonely enterprise,” the blogger Erik Wemple writes. (The Washington Post)
  8. BuzzFeed editors don’t shout: “It’s such an old-fashioned idea the idea that a newspaper editor has to be someone who marches up and down shouting,” BuzzFeed UK Editor Luke Lewis tells William Turvill. “I think that model has not got much longer left for this world.” He also says the publication has a culture “of experimentation,” “which means saying yes to pretty much every idea.” (PressGazette) || “The BuzzFeed formula — not just personalizing pop trivia, but treating it as an inexorable element of our emotional makeup — feels like the natural outcome of several decades of plug-in room deodorizers and Toyotathons and hamburger-slinging clowns.” (NYT)
  9. Layoffs: The Wall Street Journal has laid off 20-40 people (NYT) || 22 people lost their jobs Wednesday when the Star Media Group announced it was closing The Grid, a Toronto magazine. (Toronto Star) || “Well, we gave it our best shot.” (@TheGridTO)
  10. Job stuff, edited by Ben Mullin: Jonathan Hart, a founder of the Online News Association, has left his job as general counsel there to become the chief legal officer and general counsel for NPR. (ONA) His spot will be filled by Michael Kovaka. (Jim Brady) Shelley Acoca, who had been an editor of Fox News Magazine, will become the East Coast lifestyles and entertainment editor for the Associated Press. (AP)

Correction: This post originally misspelled Shelley Acoca’s first name.

Suggestions? Criticisms? Would like me to send you this roundup each morning? Please email me: Read more


Live Chat replay: Journalist Rodney Curtis tells how he got laid (off), lived to laugh about it

Rodney Curtis is not right. Like thousands of other journalists, he got laid off. Unlike all the others, though, he decided this would make a funny book, “Getting Laid (Off).” Who does that? Seriously, folks, American Society of News Editors surveys show that newsroom employment is down from a peak of 56,900 in 1989 to 38,000 in 2012. The 2013 number is expected to be smaller.

Poynter career chats feature job opportunities and strategies for journalists, but the new journalism jobs have not filled that gap and many have had to leave the industry. Curtis’ approach seems to be that if you can’t beat ‘em, tickle ‘em. Has it worked for Curtis? Can it work for anyone else?

See below a replay of our Wednesday, April 23, talk with Curtis.

Visit to find an archive of all past chats.

Read more

A reserved sign and flowers are seen on a table at Holsten's ice cream parlor Thursday, June 20, 2013, in Bloomfield, N.J., with a newspaper announcing the death of actor James Gandolfini. Gandolfini was mourned in the northern New Jersey towns where his TV character Tony Soprano lived, loved and whacked people. The star died Wednesday night in Italy of an apparent heart attack. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

Advance laid off more than 300 people in N.J.

The Star-Ledger | The New York Times | The Daily Beast |

Some 306 people lost jobs at Advance’s New Jersey properties Thursday, Mark Mueller and Ted Sherman report in The (Newark, N.J.) Star-Ledger. At the Star-Ledger, 167 staffers, 40 of them from the newsroom, were laid off as Advance tries to reposition its newsgathering operations for digital readership.

“Another 124 full- and part-time jobs were eliminated at the company’s weekly newspapers and at the dailies in Trenton, Easton, and South Jersey,” Mueller and Sherman write. “At, 15 of 77 employees were let go.”

Matt Kraner, the president of NJ Advance Media, the new company that will provide content and other services to the papers, told The New York Times the group “will be adding 27 editorial positions to increase the numbers of reporters and photographers on the street.” The cuts will nevertheless present “a net reduction in editorial staff,” Ravi Somaiya reports.

When asked whether the moves diminished The Star-Ledger, its publisher, Richard Vezza, said in a phone interview: “I don’t look at it that way. I look at it as a transition to an organization for the future.”

NJ Advance Media will be based in Woodbridge, N.J., Mueller and Sherman report. The Star-Ledger will “remain a presence in Newark, though a vastly diminished one”: Read more

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Technology background, News text in perspective

What went wrong at Digital First Media — and what’s next?

The announced shutdown of Digital First Media’s national newsroom Wednesday and the probable sale of its 75 daily newspapers later this year is a significant jolt to those who believe a viable business model for rapid transformation of legacy operations is close at hand.

CEO John Paton’s explanation in his blog that the company has decided to dismantle Project Thunderdome “to go in a new direction” barely hints at the converging economic troubles.

Most basically, the very able editor Jim Brady (a Poynter National Advisory Board member) and his lieutenants were like a crack auto racing team trying to succeed in a highly competitive field driving Chevy Cobalts.

The two companies that were merged into Digital First, Journal Register and MediaNews, have both been through bankruptcies, Journal Register twice. Both had been under-invested for years in content management systems and other essential technology.

Steve Buttry, who was just months into “Project Unbolt” to hasten the break from print habits to digital, told me the four pilot papers for that project all had different CMSes, none of them especially good.

It is myth, embraced by digital future-of-news enthusiasts, that Web publishing is close to free. Paton seemed of that view early in his tenure when he asked newsrooms to use mainly free tools to put out their reports for a week.

But in his most recent manifesto/speech to the Online Publishers Association in January, he said he was looking for another $100 million to invest in the company’s digital activities on top of an earlier $100 million.

To weave quality mobile offerings into the often creaky pairing of print and Web content is an order of magnitude more expensive. And new lines of digital business like other startups come with the cost meter running well before the revenue kicks in.

The leading edge of the bad news was the shutdown of the Project Thunderdome news center, along with the departure of Brady and many other editors and reporters, 50-plus in all.

Several aspects of that operation struck me as odd. Digital First has plenty of company — Gannett, Tribune and others — in trying to centralize production and content generation of national news, freeing local staff (and print news hole) for local content.

But could a staff of 50 or so, however digitally adroit, really generate a range of material suitable for papers of very different sizes and aspirations, competitive with The Associated Press and other wire services?

And with cost considerations looming large, why would you put such a news center not just in Manhattan but half a block from Wall Street?

While not terribly detailed, Paton’s blog announcement said the company would be returning to a more decentralized treatment of national and international topics and let its scattered newspaper clusters do more of the picking of which digital initiatives to pursue. As for what’s next, Paton wrote that while the company will continue to invest in digital, “increasingly our focus will be in local where we are the news and information leader in our markets.”

Paton did not say that the company is being put up for sale. A thorough report from the reliable Ken Doctor said it would be coming soon. I did verify from two other informed sources (who declined to be quoted by name) that the properties have informally been shopped around since the start of this year.

That is not to say definitively that a formal sales process is in place. I am also not so sure that a buyer for the whole company or a set of buyers for its component parts will be found.

But the clear signal is that the money guys behind the company — hedge fund Alden Global Capital — are looking for an exit. Paton, as I have noted in earlier posts, spent several years as an investment banker himself. So he was a logical CEO for Alden, but probably under more pressure than he has let on to clear the firm’s financial hurdles in a timely fashion.

Ideally, investors in distressed businesses like Alden (a.k.a vulture funds) are looking to squeeze out costs, restructure strategically and sell at a profit after a few years.

However, if that scenario doesn’t work out, they are ready to bail out sooner and take their licks. Alden has done that once already, selling its controlling interest in Philadelphia newspapers to local investors at a 50 percent loss after just two years.

Opinion on the dramatic news was split. Many (including my colleague Jill Geisler) paid tribute to the innovative drive of the Thunderdome news operation and wished the talented staff well in finding new employment.

Buttry told me in a phone interview, “if you could succeed by newsrooms embracing digital challenges, we would be a success.” But at an earlier Brady-Buttry collaboration, the freestanding digital TBD site in Washington, the money guys lost patience before the original timetable for the experiment was close to completion.

There was a more negative undercurrent in the Twitter stream from some savvy digital operating executives.

Raju Narisetti, the outspoken senior vice president, strategy, for News Corp, wrote that the episode is “a classic case of media critics and Twitterati enamored by ‘digital first’ talk & not looking at economics.”

In subsequent posts, he called Digital First “a house of newspaper cards” and faulted Paton’s note on Thunderdome’s demise as “all PR euphemism.”

Rafat Ali, who founded the Paid Content site (an early venture covering digital businesses) and sold it at a premium price, blistered Paton in a tweet, writing “at some point people have to stop worshiping false prophets.” Ali has moved on to an ambitious new travel information site,

Neither Narisetti nor Ali could be called stick-in-the-mud legacy nostalgists, as Paton has frequently characterized his critics. But they clearly see more pep talk than substance in what he has done at Digital First.

I have e-mailed Paton, who replied that he was willing to talk time permitting. I will add his comments if I get them.

In earlier conversations, before the second Journal Register bankruptcy, Paton was eloquent on the difficulty of shedding legacy costs and the inevitability of continued print advertising losses.

You could blame the failure of Thunderdome and perhaps the rest of the Digital First experiment on those burdens. Or on a bet-the-store reliance on big digital advertising revenue gains that have yet to materialize. Or both.

In any case, the takeaway, is that the Paton way, peppered with encouraging but selective growth statistics, didn’t add up to those who have seen the books in their entirety. Read more


CNN Atlanta lays off 16 from image, sound unit

TV Newser | The Wrap

Sixteen CNN employees based in Atlanta have been laid off, a CNN source confirmed to Poynter Thursday by email.

TV Newser reported those released include photojournalists and video editors from the company’s image and sound unit: Read more


PoynterVision: Transitioning from newspapers to corporate communications

After working for 27 years in newspapers, Butch Ward, senior faculty and former managing director at Poynter, left his final newspaper post at The Philadelphia Inquirer in 2001. Eight months later, Ward joined the Independence Blue Cross in Philadelphia as the vice president for corporate and public affairs, putting him “on the other side of the wall” with journalists. Watch the video to hear how Ward navigated the transition.

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How laid-off journalists can stay afloat while the industry moves ‘to new moorings’

When Patch laid me off along with many other editors last May, I remember thinking I should have left sooner.

I received a severance but then faced tough competition from dozens of downsized journalists, all chasing after what seemed at the time like precious few journalism jobs.

Economic conditions have improved since last year. I see more listings on Poynter, JournalismJobs, Mediabistro, Gorkana and other job boards. Still, the number of opportunities won’t match the hundreds of Patch and Time Inc. workers laid off lately.

Journalists who have not sought employment recently may be shocked at how drastically the jobs landscape has changed. The market they are walking into won’t be the one that greeted them when they first got their J-school degrees.

Digital skills these long-timers told themselves they’d get around to learning are often what employers are seeking today. Beyond writing for the Web, video editing, and social media knowledge, employers want those with high level technical skills like programming, data visualization, mapping and other abilities that require concentrated study to acquire.

Patch employees accustomed to the daily demands of multimedia reporting might have an advantage in today’s job market. But I suspect they, too, may want to pick up skills that are more in demand now than even three short years ago.

Lars Schmidt, a former NPR recruiter who in December started his own firm, Amplify Talent, said while the contraction in the news industry has hit print more than any other sector, the disruptions in media distribution and consumption have enveloped everyone.

So what’s a laid-off journalist to do? “I think it is important that in addition to being great writers, journalists have a comfort level and curiosity around digital platforms,” Schmidt said by phone. He advises journalists to focus on displaying their digital skills in their portfolios.  Strengths in that area are important as consumers migrate away from print toward Web and mobile.

“For me personally, social media is an important tool,” he said. He advises job-seekers to follow great journalists on Twitter and tap into groups like the Online News Association. Resources like Robert Hernandez’ #wjchat can help jobseekers keep up with digital tools and trends.

While it may all be new for some among the recently laid-off, creating a solid LinkedIn profile, learning to connect with hiring mangers, building a website for clips and other work, and networking online as well as in real life are all part of today’s job search. Schmidt offers other tips for job hunters on his company’s website.

Writing and editing skills are still valuable, even if programming is not in your skill set. News organizations may not be hiring in the numbers to absorb everyone, but corporations and nonprofits need good writers and editors, too. Get past the notion that it’s journalism or nothing and more opportunities will open up to you.

Moving from news to a corporation takes an adjustment, but Poynter’s senior faculty Butch Ward said it proved easy for him. Many of the skills that journalists possess — writing well, asking tough questions, and thinking analytically — are highly desired by businesses, he said in a PoynterVision interview.

Salary levels may also surprise job-seekers. Employers have discovered they can get talent for less money. So negotiate hard for top dollar, but be prepared if the job offer comes in far lower than expected.

Warren Watson, the executive director of the Society of American Business Editors and Writers, made a similar point in a recent Poynter live chat. Watson interviewed journalists who, because of downsizing and other circumstances, stepped out of the business. In all cases, Watson said, “people have moved in the direction where they’re making less money.”

Because they now may be able to get health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act, journalists can opt out of full-time employment and instead build “portfolio” careers, cobbling together writing and editing, teaching and consulting jobs, for instance.

But should you even stick it out in journalism? The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics is not encouraging. It estimates that between 2012 and 2022, employment for reporters, correspondents and broadcast analysts will decline an estimated 13 percent. In its latest report on job outlook for journalists, the bureau also notes:

Declining revenue will force news organizations to downsize and employ fewer journalists. Increasing demand for online news and podcasts (audio or video digital media files that can often be downloaded from a website) may offset some of the downsizing. However, because online and mobile ad revenue is typically less than print revenue, the growth in digital advertising may not offset the decline in print advertising, circulation, and readership.

Perspective about the recent layoffs can help, said Joe Grimm, a journalism professor at Michigan State University as well as the leader of Poynter’s jobs chats (and a one-time Patch recruiter).

Reductions have been sweeping the industry for half a dozen years and those for Patch and Time Inc. won’t be the last. “There will certainly be more waves of layoffs at other companies as journalism continues moving to new moorings,” Grimm said by email., a search engine that collects listings on employment boards, has a tool that shows trends in words and phrases in job postings, he said. “Social media,” for example, rose from about zero in January 2008 to about 1 percent of postings in the spring 2013, declining slightly since then. HTML5 has climbed while Flash waned; Android is up, iPhone down.

These keywords reflect the changing needs of employers and the skills they are seeking. “All journalists, not just those trying to recover from a recent layoff, have to pay continuous attention to where media are going,” Grimm said.

Looking down the road is an important point. Ice hockey legend Wayne Gretzky’s much-attributed quote may be overused, but it’s appropriate here as many journalists step back into the job rink: Skate to where the puck is going, not to where it has been.

Best of luck in the days ahead. Read more

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Live chat replay: What happens when a journalism career breaks?

Thousands of journalists have had to pick up the pieces and start over because of layoffs, firings and downsizing.

Warren Watson, executive director of the Society of American Business Editors and Writers, has interviewed several of them and is working on a project about broken journalism careers.

He has had some career interruptions himself. We talked about how journalists restart their career, what they have experienced, how you can be prepared and what kinds of entirely different careers former journalists enter.

Replay the live chat for an honest conversation about strategies for dealing with career interruptions. Watson even shared some very unique career transitions such as a photojournalist who started a gourmet pizza business and another former journalist who is now a dog and horse trainer.

We also offered advice about how to avoid the downward spiral that may come with switching careers or losing a job and the importance of rekindling your self-confidence.

You can revisit this page at any time to replay the chat after it has ended. Visit to find an archive of all past chats.

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