April 6, 2020

On the same day that TEGNA notified employees that they would be taking a furlough for one week in the second quarter of 2020, another of the mega TV news station owners, Gray Television, sent employees a note to reassure them there are no furloughs, pay cuts or layoffs in the works.

Hilton Howell, Gray executive chairman and CEO, sent this memo to employees:

Gray Employees:

Like you, we have been watching with concern how this public health crisis has forced many companies to take extra-ordinary steps to respond to the changing business environment.  It might be reassuring to let you know that during the Great Recession of 2008-09, Gray did not:

  • Have any mass layoffs;
  • Ask employees to take unpaid leave;
  • Ask employees to take pay cuts; nor
  • Reduce employee benefits.

At the present time, Gray DOES NOT see the need to do any of the above.  In particular, we do not believe that we will need to furlough employees;  layoff employees; reduce hourly or salary compensation levels; nor suspend, delay or reduce contributions to employees’ 401(k)s.  In addition, we do not plan to reduce Paid Time Off, health care, EAP, dental, vision, or any other employee benefit. In fact, last month, we suspended certain benefit caps, deductibles, and fees related to the coronavirus.

We are very hopeful that the tough sacrifices being made all around this country (and the world) will be rewarded sooner rather than later.  Like you, we remain optimistic that the country emerges from this crisis and local businesses return to work in the next several weeks. Throughout this, we will continue to review all of our operations and make adjustments when necessary.

Thank YOU for all that you are doing to support your community and your colleagues.

Gray owns stations in 93 TV markets around the U.S. and in recent years has become one of the biggest broadcast owners in the country. Gray says its stations include the “number-one rated television station in 68 markets and the first or second-highest-rated television station in 87 markets.”

A little more than a year ago, Gray bought Raycom, another of the nation’s biggest TV station owners. Before buying Raycom, Gray made its mark owning mostly small and medium market stations. Its ownership today still tilts heavily toward the southeastern part of the country.

Gray Television’s stations also include stations in Anchorage and Fairbanks, Alaska. (Courtesy)

Despite today’s uplifting message to employees, Gray’s stock has been battered in recent weeks.

The group began more than 100 years ago as a newspaper company in Albany, Georgia. In the 1990s, the company began divesting its print holdings and moving to broadcasting.

Al Tompkins is senior faculty at Poynter. He can be reached at atompkins@poynter.org or on Twitter, @atompkins.

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Al Tompkins is one of America's most requested broadcast journalism and multimedia teachers and coaches. After nearly 30 years working as a reporter, photojournalist, producer,…
Al Tompkins

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