August 18, 2015

Several employees at Alabama Media Group have been laid off, the Advance-owned regional media company announced Tuesday.

In a memo to staffers announcing the cuts, Alabama Media Group executive Michelle Holmes said between five and nine positions will be eliminated in each of the company’s main sites across the state.

“We know many of you will say goodbye to trusted colleagues and friends,” Holmes wrote. “We wish the best for those who leave our organization today and thank them for their dedication and good work.”

In a release, Alabama Media Group said the cuts will be accompanied by an increased focus on core areas of coverage including breaking news, high school and college sports and Alabama culture. It also notes the company is committed to producing video and hiring staffers who can create “original programming.”

Alabama Media Group, the parent company of several newspapers throughout the state, earlier this year went through a round of layoffs that sapped employees from the Mobile Press-Register and the Birmingham News. Holmes said the cuts fit into an ongoing assessment of the company’s staffing needs:

We have been clear for the last several months that we are regularly assessing our staffing needs, our skills and our overall performance in building and serving audiences. Today’s moves are part of that process.

The latest layoffs echo job cuts reportedly coming at NOLA Media Group, the parent company of The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune. The Huffington Post anonymously quoted one staffer Monday who said employees throughout the newsroom feared for their jobs.

Both NOLA Media Group and Alabama Media Group, which are owned by Advance, have reoriented themselves to focus on digital journalism in recent years as revenue from print advertising continues to wane.

The cuts come within a month of an announcement that both NOLA Media Group and Alabama Media Group would join a new company, Southeast Regional Media Group. The move was greeted by Poynter’s Rick Edmonds as a sign that Advance was seeking to consolidate some business and editing functions in the two states.

The formation of Southeast Regional Media Group saw a leadership shuffle that put an executive from NOLA Media Group in charge of the newly formed company. Ricky Mathews, previously president of NOLA Media Group, was named president of the new entity. He was replaced by David Francis, who was previously executive vice president and associate publisher of NOLA Media Group.

Advance’s push to consolidate some of its services follows established trends in the media industry writ large, with several news outlets moving production to centralized design centers that executives say do away with costly redundancies. Digital First Media, Gatehouse Media and The McClatchy Company have all adopted at least some consolidation of their design functions.

Here’s Holmes’ memo:

Dear Staff,

Today we have made a number of content changes in our hubs across Alabama to allow us to continue to serve our rapidly growing digital audience while aligning our costs with the business challenges media companies face in 2015.
. Many of you already know the good news: our audience, measured in unique visitors, has grown nearly 70 percent year-over-year in 2015, and is among America’s top 50 online news organizations.

We have learned what our audience demands, and are concentrating our resources in those areas: significant enterprise and investigative news that informs and supports the public interest; local and state breaking and trending news, high school and college sports; and Alabama life and culture. We see enormous growth and potential in video and continue to hire staff skilled in creating original programming.

At the same time, in our quest to ensure a sustainable future for journalism in our communities, we have had to make cutbacks in areas that see smaller audience interest.
Those moves, announced today, stem from some very difficult decisions about which positions fit into the future of our content operations. Our need to expand coverage of in-depth statewide political stories, watchdog and accountability stories, and breaking news means we will reduce journalists in other areas.

The change in our content producing team today was not easy; Staff reductions include 5 to 9 full-time journalists in each of our three main locations across the state. We know many of you will say goodbye to trusted colleagues and friends. We wish the best for those who leave our organization today and thank them for their dedication and good work.
The excellence and commitment of our staff even through difficult times is what makes me confident that we can continue to do meaningful, significant journalism here. Yes, these are challenging times for media companies. But we see much reason to look toward a bright future. Alabama Media Group continues to employ the largest news gathering staff in Alabama and we are committed to ensuring our journalists have the chance to pursue excellence.

Over the coming week, David Magee and I will meet with each of you to help you understand our plan for moving forward and to answer questions about your role in the months ahead.

We thank you for your dedication to this important work.


Correction: A previous version of this story said that Alabama and Louisiana were contiguous.

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Benjamin Mullin is the managing editor of He previously reported for Poynter as a staff writer, Google Journalism Fellow and Naughton Fellow, covering journalism…
Benjamin Mullin

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