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Norwalk Hour Employees Strike Tentative Deal With Paper

The Newspaper Guild at the Norwalk (Conn.) Hour and the paper have reached a tentative deal for a new three-year contract.

If approved, the contract would provide for 2 percent raises for each of the next three years, decrease employee contributions to health care premiums, and a clause that prevents the paper from replacing full-time employees with temps.

A vote is scheduled for next Tuesday.

Washington Post Company Reports Shrunken Income On Ad Rev Drop

The Washington Post Company reported a 22 percent drop in earnings for the fourth quarter of 2011, from $79 million to $61.7 million, on a 10 percent decrease in revenues, from $1182 million to $1063.4 million.

Even Kaplan Inc, which is wholly owned by the Post Company, was less profitable than in the past, due to lower enrollment and recent regulations that have affected how Kaplan receives funding.

The publishing division, which we care most about here at MJD, saw revenue fall 4 percent in the fourth quarter, from $118.4 million to $181 million. The Washington Post itself saw a 6 percent drop in ad revenue, a lower amount of cash generated by its online properties, and a decline in circulation.

In the fourth quarter, the paper reported a profit of $7.4 million, but over the year, the division is reporting a loss of $18 million.

Media General Explores Newspaper Sell-Off

Late last night, Media General said it is “exploring the potential sale of newspaper operations,” reports Poynter MediaWire.

The company said it had received “inquiries” from “several” third parties regarding the purchase of some of its papers.

According to Poynter media analyst Rick Edmonds, those third parties could be small companies nearby looking to expand, private equity buyers, or well-off individuals (like Warren Buffett). And ” I wouldn’t rule out Halifax Media,” Edmonds added.

Media General currently owns 21 newspapers, including the Tampa Tribune, the Richmond Times-Dispatch, and more.

Indy Star Guild Gets Raises For Employees, But Could Lose Up To Eight Jobs

The Indianapolis Newspaper Guild and the Indianapolis Star have reached an agreement that awards pay raises to most workers, including the lowest-paid, but gives parent company Gannett the right to outsource up to eight jobs.

The Guild reports that covered workers will receive raises of 2-4 percent, with the highest raises going to the lowest paid workers. (The Star imposed a 10 percent pay cut in 2009, so this is only the first step toward restoring workers’ pay to pre-recession levels.)

But the company was “unyielding” in its insistence that page design work would be outsourced out of state to be designed at a center in Louisville. “We made a strong case…that this could damage the local news product,” guild vice president Adam Yates wrote. “But it became clear that this was an edict from Gannett, The Star’s parent company, and that the quality of the product was a secondary consideration to saving money.”

Six to eight jobs will be displaced (but it’s unclear how many will be hired in Louisville, if any, to replace them).

Finally, Yates said, “The pay raises, while not fully restoring our 10 percent cuts from two years ago, were significant. Our industry is still in job and pay cutting mode. And newspaper unions around the country are still facing cuts such as the ones we took two years ago.

“That we could squeeze out even these modest raises was a testimony the efforts of our workers and our friends in the community and the breadth of our public campaign…We will continue our efforts to Save the Star.”

Buyouts, Then Layoffs At Philly.com, Inquirer, Daily News?

The combined newsrooms of the Inquirer, the Philadelphia Daily News, and Philly.com will undergo a reduction in force of 37 positions through a combination of buyouts and layoffs, the Philadelphia Newspaper Guild said.

Details of the buyout program will be coming from HR soon, but the gist is as usual: the more people who sign up for buyouts, the fewer layoffs there will be.

Departments targeted include “Reporters, Writing Reporters, Rewrite, News Artists, Photographers, Photo Printers, Copy Editors/Readers, Make-Up Persons, Desk Assistants, Cartoonists, Editorial Writers, Editorial Clerks and Philly.com Multi Media Content Producers.”

Everyone, both bought-out and laid off, must be out by March 31.

Buffalo News Reports ‘Lowest Profit In Decades

The Buffalo (New York) News reported annual operating profits of below $10 million, the lowest in decades, Buffalo Business First notes.

But these numbers don’t necessarily predict any new buyouts. (The News had a round of buyouts last year, when 29 employees departed, and a round the year before, with a loss of 23 staffers.)

Instead, the paper is considering adding a paywall to its site. Digital revenues account for just 7 percent of the News’ bottom line, lower than many other newspapers struggling with the transition to digital.

“The paywall is something we are looking at but, I want to caution, that nothing is imminent,” publisher Stanford Lipsey said.

Star Tribune Offers Profit-Sharing Checks For Second Year Running

The Minneapolis Star Tribune, which was bankrupt just three short years ago, is now on its second year of paying out profit-sharing checks to employees, David Brauer reports.

The award is $300 per full-time employee, or about a fourth of what it was last year ($1,163). That’s because the Strib’s pension contribution tripled.

But the fact that the company had enough money to fully fund its pension obligations, match everyone’s 401(k), and still share $300 with each of the paper’s 1,000 full-time employees is pretty encouraging.

Circulation revenue was up, newsroom staffing has remained steady, and the paper says it has more than 12,000 brand-new digital subscribers.

The downside: Ad revenue is still slipping, and newsroom staffers haven’t received a raise in three years. But if business continues this way, perhaps employees will receive some good news when their contract goes up for negotiation next January.

Now Gannett Is Offering Buyouts

Gannett is offering buyouts to anyone in its Community Publishing division who is over 56 with 20 years of service at the company, according to a memo posted by Jim Romenesko.

As a reminder of how huge Gannett is, that applies to 785 people, but Gannett is going to accept “only” up to 665 employees, split among Gannett’s properties. For example, at the Asbury Park (NJ) Press, up to 47 people can take the buyout, while at Florida Today (in Brevard County, Fla.) only 11 volunteers will be accepted.

Gannett Blog’s Jim Hopkins says that the buyout “represent[s] a major shift in the company’s payroll reduction strategy” for a company that usually implements layoffs or unpaid furlough days.

Also, “Until now, GCI has never extended buyouts to such a broad group of employees simultaneously.”

Employees have 45 days to volunteer. It’s unclear how much money Gannett hopes/needs to save from this program and whether Gannett will resort to layoffs if it can’t reach the desired number of cuts through volun

Washington Post Offering Buyouts In Newsroom

The Washington Post announced a voluntary buyout program today that will affect up to 48 people, or eight percent of the newsroom staff.

The AFP reports that the offer is not being extended to all newsroom departments and certain volunteers will be turned down if “we feel their departure would impair our journalism,” executive editor Marcus Brauchli said. “That said, it is important that we achieve real savings.”

According to ombudsman Patrick Pexton:

Update: Pexton wrote us to say he was mistaken about the investigative team being protected from the buyout. They are, indeed eligible for the buyout. Here’s his corrected tweet:

The Post company is scheduled to announce its fourth-quarter earnings at the end of the month. The newspaper’s third-quarter earnings showed a steep decline in both print and online revenues.

Halifax Lays Off 30 Staffers, More To Come?

Halifax Media Group has laid off 30 of the 50 staffers it acquired from the New York Times Regional Media Group headquarters in Tampa, according to a memo obtained by Poynter Mediawire. The HQ was home to the management team that supervised the 16 papers purchased by Halifax, including marketing staff, product managers, developers and salespeople.

The 20 HQ employees who were not laid off face a choice: relocate 2.5 hours away to Daytona Beach or join the ranks of the unemployed. According to Poynter, the developers and salespeople were offered positions, while all the marketing employees and all but one product manager were laid off.

Halifax was bound by the terms of its purchase to only lay off 10 percent of the 2,000-person-total staff, but that requirement only applied to layoffs at the sale’s closing, which happened late last year.

The newspapers themselves, not the HQ, can expect more layoff news in the next month or so, Poynter reports.

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