Thursday, March 19, 2009

What we learned today -- not a lot

George Rodrigue answered questions for an hour during an informal lunchtime conversation. I'm told there was very little new news. Readers say he did make a few points:

1) A list of proposed RIFs is now in the hands of HR and the corporate lawyers. If the list is approved the process will complete quickly. How long will the review take? George would not say. When will the RIFs happen. A week or two into next month seems to be a reasonable bet. But if there are legal reasons to change the list, or if financial news gets so much worse that more are needed, that could delay things.

2) How many will lose their jobs in the news operation? George refused to give any estimate and said the final number has not been set. But he did say that the number now being reviewed is significant. It is the third "official" number. The first demand from corporate was reduced after evaluation of what it would mean to the content in the newspaper. Then after the unexpectedly bad financial numbers from the first couple of months of this year came in, the number went back up.

3) The real estate reshuffling among Belo properties seems most related to the people now in rental space in the Founders Square building. Company wants to end that ASAP, so there will be reshuffling in the buildings we own and where there is space. See comments on earlier posts for some other suggestions about what is happening.

4) About the future shape of Local News. There will be fewer fulltime editors. There will be what George called "team leaders" who will do some writing and some editing. Some will be current editors asked to take on writing. Some will be current writers asked to take on editing. Projects reporters will be deployed sometimes to work with community reporters on relatively fast-turnaround stories.

5) The real controllers of AH Belo at this point appear to be the banks that loaned the company money last year. The banks set quarterly cash flow goals that, if we miss them, the banks can literally own us. George says the details are available online in SEC filings. I've heard that the first goal, set for March 31, looks hard to attain. But I'm not good enough at reading that material to offer an opinion. I'm sure there are others out there who can do better. Please comment or send me an e-mail.

In general, there seemed to be a general sense of appreciation that George had put himself forward to take questions, along with frustration that there were not more or better answers.

If I've missed any headlines, the comments are on.


  1. The Pollock Paper truck delivered 5 large pallets of "layoff boxes" to the back dock of TDMN building today.

    Not feeling much like working tomorrow....

  2. I walked by a portrait of Robert Decker's grandfather today. How this man's soul must be turning in his grave watching what his descendants are doing to destroy his pride and joy! I bet A.H. Belo could use that $10,700,000 bonus to Decker just about now. Not to mention the $600,000. raise he gave himself.

  3. As a former newspaper scribe who now toils at an Internet company, my heart aches for you folks.

    It's sad that it has come to this.

    Good luck yall.

  4. This is not a good day to defend corporate bonuses, but if he put any of that money into Belo stock, he has already been punished. Heck, if he put it into just about *any* stock he's been punished some. And as for his ancestors, I'm not sure that the Ghost of Christmas Past would be able to pull us out of this ditch. Nobody else seems to be doing any better...

  5. Yeah, well, since peons who makes pretty much nothing when compared to Decherd, are going to be fired because the companies money troubles, that bonus and raise is looking more and more ridiculous. Not that it wasn't to begin with.

    I get so frustrated when I think about my job these days. For those who will be gone and those who remain.

    For those who remain, it sounds like they are increasing expectations and responsibilities while decreasing pay and benefits. There has to be a point where just having a job isn't enough.

    I'm tired of the misery. All I want is to be happy with my job.

  6. These are tough times, indeed. I recently saw old Depression photographs of men selling apples and others standing in long lines for food. Obviously, we haven't reached that point yet. A job is good to have right now -- but it's not everything. It's also important to spend time with family and friends. As stressful as things are right now, don't give away your soul to the men who run this company. Hold your head high, smile and never let 'em see you sweat.

  7. What the "Privileged Ones" don't seem to grasp is the idea that We -the employees- are their most priceless assets!
    For every reporter that has the drive and integrity to do their jobs ethically. For every photographer that uses restraint while using photoshop, for every researcher that looks for one more source to verify information. For all the people that - for years - have worked tirelessly to win Pulitzers and bring prestige and credibility to this institution. For all of us to be treated like "numbers" or "force to be reduced", this is a major blow. To work for a Newspaper is more than just a job. Even if we don't get "reduced" this time around, we as a "force" will never be the same. Neither will the News. And most of us blame Management. This is the 5th layoff since 2002. We can't take it anymore.

  8. As a former employee (BIM), my heart really goes out to the folks sticking it out at A. H. Belo. For me, it was more than a job for a long time. My loyalty and love for my job kept me there a lot longer than I can justify now. Times are tough, and a job is better than nothing - that is true. However, in my experience, life is much better once you're out of the Belo Idiocracy. Leaving was the best thing I ever did, and I wish the same experience for the rest of you.

  9. If you have worked at DMN for more than 10 years, are age 40 or older and make more than $60K a year, then your job is in jeopardy.

    Past layoffs have shown those are the types of employees that were cut. Performance reviews are considered but don't necessarily play a role in layoffs. Several people from the last round had strong performance reviews but were cut anyway.

    Upper management hasn't really taken a hit in past layoffs, but it will be interesting to see if these economic times change that scenario.

  10. Anyone interested in an entirely anonymous rundown of how much we all get paid so we can see where we fall? By totally anonymous, I mean don't put position -- maybe just department. And you can put over and under a decade worked, if you'd like.

  11. The Bain Group, the DMN's entrepid consultants, has advised that there are too many layers in the newsroom. Duh. They recommend the current 8 layers should be trimmed to five. Jim Moroney, Bob Mong and George Rodrigue constitute the top three layers. That leaves two more. Bet on the lowest layer - the line editors, the guys who shoulder most of the load - getting hit hard. The so-called Team Leaders may well be folks who currently carry titles of AME or DME.

  12. By the way, DMNCuts, watch your back. Bosses will undoubtedly hear of and monitor this site. They can be quite thin-skinned. Guard your anonymity zealously and keep everything you do off of the company's server. Our pals in Human Resources may be watching too. You wouldn't want to end up on someone's list.

  13. About the salary idea: While secrecy about pay only serves the bosses interests, I think that issue goes beyond the purpose of this blog. Let us not. I am not, by the way, doing any postings on company computers. I am not paranoid about getting on a "list" but I'm not a dope, either.

  14. My post was not intended to be insulting. It was meant to be a friendly caution. Good luck.

  15. no offence taken. I should have added a smiley there. :)