Tampa Bay Times plans buyouts in advance of job reductions

The Tampa Bay Times will announce Wednesday it plans to offer buyouts to employees, according to a memo from Human Resources Director Sebastian Dortch. Staffers who take them will get up to 13 weeks' severance plus two weeks' pay. The buyouts precede planned "job reductions around the company," Dortch writes.

"We are finding some ways to improve our results without compromising our quality. We want to support the colleagues whose jobs will be affected," Tampa Bay Times Communications Director Jounice Nealy-Brown says in an email to Poynter.

Here's the memo:

As many of you know, we are working with the advice of business consultants to improve the company's financial results, and we are encouraged by the early findings.

While some details are still being determined, it is clear that this work will result in some job reductions around the company.

Before they begin, we will offer an enhancement to staffers (fulltime and grandfathered 1,000-hour part time) who would like to leave the Times on their own accord. In these voluntary resignations, we will pay up to 13 weeks severance, depending on years of service, along with an two additional weeks of pay.

We will make this offer available from March 10 to 24. If you are interested, please talk to your manager or your department's Human Resources representative about next steps, including determining a departure date.

Even if you are not interested, this is an opportunity to take stock of your place in the Times' future. Your manager can help, as well as HR. This is an important time to understand where you stand.

Poynter owns the Tampa Bay Times.

Last Friday, Jim Romenesko reported that a commenter on SportsJournalists.com claimed the Tampa Bay Times planned to shed 10 percent of its workforce, and that the paper's "copy desk will be hit the hardest." Times Publishing Company Chairman and CEO Paul Tash did not reply to a query from a Poynter reporter Friday.

The next day The Tampa Tribune, which competes with the Tampa Bay Times, published a piece by Richard Mullins that described the Times as a "shrinking company under increasing financial strain."

Revenue at the Times and its sister publications is half what it was five years ago, and the paper has been selling assets around the region. More recently, the newspaper took out a $28 million loan, backed by its headquarters and other property — due in December 2016.

A separate article noted that Poynter's "expenses still outweighed revenues by $1.7 million in 2012, according to tax filings."

Tash sent a memo to employees on March 1 saying the company would "defer some contributions to our pension plan."

The Times did a round of layoffs in 2011 and extended pay cuts for staff in 2012, a reduction that ended a few months later. It instituted a paywall last year, asking "readers who turn most often to our website to help support it financially."

In September 2013, the Times had an average circulation of 355,853 on Sundays, down about 6 percent from the year before, according to figures filed with the Alliance for Audited Media. Its average Monday-Friday circulation fell about 4 percent.

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at TBD.com and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.


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