Wednesday, September 7, 2011

What Mong and Rodrigue said today

I have been emailed a summary of what was said at the Local News meeting:

This is a summary of the official line: Last year sucked less that the previous couple of years. Bonuses for everybody! But starting in January, the level of suckitude increased dramatically. May was especially sucky and the summer continued in that fashion. Eventually Corporate instructed the DMN to cut a certain number of dollars, including a specific amount from the newsroom.

Based on the operation experience of the Toronto Star, we decided to merge the Sports production with the News production departments. What was the smallest number we could get away with of copy editors? The rest got chopped. (Most of those copy editors we lost were from Sports.) This means most stories will get far less attention from copy editors than in the past. (Which certainly means more typos and errors in the paper. None of us are perfect.)

From Rodrigue: "The difference between a blog post and a story is going to get smaller."

Then to other parts of the newsroom. What was the smallest number of assignment editors we could get away with? And finally, how many reporters needed to get cut to hit the number? And that's how we got to the cuts.

There is no plan for a pay cut or furloughs.

Digital is back to being the flavor of the month. Breaking news desk moves under digital management and will get more bodies. The mobile app is about to get a much needed upgrade. Blogs are important again.

The Backfield desk will get more bodies and more responsibility.

Rodrigue talked about the challenge of keeping readers. If they believe they are asked to pay more to get less, they will leave angry and in droves. How we maintain the illusion (not his word, of course) that we are not doing exactly that will be the big challenge of the next several months.
Rodrigue did not dispute the body count of 38 on the blog. He was careful to add that he did not confirm it, either.

Anybody else who wants to either dispute this summary or add your own is welcome to comment.

For any who have forgotten the recent past

This was reported five months ago:
Providence Journal parent A.H. Belo awarded its top five executives nearly $1.6 million in cash bonuses last year, the company disclosed Monday in an SEC filing.
A.H. Belo CEO Robert Decherd’s total compensation more than tripled to $1.87 million in 2010, up from $499,180 in 2009, according to calculations based on the SEC filing.
Decherd’s 2010 pay package included a $480,000 salary; a $408,000 cash bonus; $949,998 worth of stock awards; and $29,872 in “other compensation.” The latter category included $8,760 for life insurance, $3,150 in tax gross-ups to make up for the cost of taxes on other benefits, and a $420 cell phone allowance.
Among the other four top executives, Dallas Morning News Publisher James Moroney earned $1.3 million in 2010, up from $478,090 in 2009; Morning News President and General Manager John McKeon earned $1.3 million in his first year on the job; Chief Financial Officer Alison Engel earned $800,001, up from $276,765; and Senior Vice President Daniel Blizzard earned $575,000, up from $211,228.
The largest cash bonus went to McKeon, who received $584,960, most of it as a retention bonus. Moroney got $327,250 in cash, Engel got $150,000 and Blizzard got $100,000. Dallas-based A.H. Belo owns the Projo, The Morning News and The Press-Enterprise of Riverside, Calif.

My favorite is Decherd's cellphone allowance. 

A place for the RIF-ed to have their say

Lee Hancock placed her farewell as a comment to another post. I will put it here and set this post up as a place for others to do likewise as comments should they want to.

To all at 508 Young--

It has been quite a 24-year ride (plus one month, two days & four hours -- though who's counting?). I am grateful for the fun it's mostly been. I hope for better, happier days for all who remain.

Off to the next adventure: trying my hand at freelancing & a low-residency MFA program at Bennington College.

Write well. Do good. Tell great stories.


Lee Hancock
C. 903.520.5452