More than 40 staffers in newsrooms throughout Philadelphia Media Network have been laid off as the company seeks to consolidate its disparate editorial staffers to forge a single unified newsroom.
Today’s layoffs, which claimed a total of 46 jobs, were scattered throughout the company’s three newsrooms, said Howard Gensler, president of the Local 10 at the Newspaper Guild of Greater Philadelphia. Staffers at Philly.com were hit the hardest, with 17 of about 30 editorial employees losing their jobs. The Philadelphia Daily News also saw severe cuts, with 17 of about 60 editorial employees laid off. The Philadelphia Inquirer lost 12 staffers.
Morale in the company’s newsrooms is extremely low, Gensler said. Nearly everybody knows somebody who’s headed for the exits. Meanwhile, employees who didn’t get laid off are on tenterhooks waiting to see how they will fit in with the restructured newsroom because the cuts don’t take effect until Dec. 4.
“It’s horrible,” Gensler said. “There’s no other way to say it. Either you lost your job, or your friend has lost their job. And if you’ve remained, not only do you have survivor guilt, but you don’t know what your job is going to be going forward. This isn’t the end for people. It’s just the start.”
Philadelphia Media Network declined to comment on the layoffs in a prepared statement, citing concern for employees:
It’s a difficult day for everyone in our organization, most of all those who will be losing their jobs. Like every media organization in America, we are going through a necessary restructuring to meet the realities and demands of a changing market. Out of respect for the individuals impacted, we will not be commenting further on this internal, personnel-related process. We have contracted with a highly-respected outplacement firm to help these good folks find work as soon as possible.
The reporting and copy editing corps at the Philadelphia Daily News has been decimated, Gensler said. About 10 reporters have been cut from the Daily News, roughly 25 percent of the tabloid’s reporting staff. Only one copy editor remains to edit news and feature stories, he said.
Gensler says the cuts don’t bode well for the Daily News, which will shed its editorial voice along with much of its writing and editing staff. Philadelphia Media Network has publicly stated it is committed to maintaining the Daily News as a separate publication, but financial headwinds might make that an untenable business proposition.
“The Daily News as we know it has been basically decimated,” Gensler said. “There still will be a product called the Daily News that the company hopes to put out for awhile.”
The cuts come months after the appointment of a new business leader at Philadelphia Media Network. Terry Egger, a former executive at the Cleveland Plain Dealer, was appointed publisher in August amid pledges to maximize revenue for the company. He acknowledged early on that Philadelphia Media Network would face challenges and didn’t rule out the possibility of cuts upon taking the job.
Like many major metropolitan news outlets, the Philly papers were hit hard by the decline of print advertising revenue. The company has lost $90 million in advertising revenue since 2011, according to the Philadelphia Business Journal and the Philadelphia Inquirer.