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.