In a late Friday email news dump, Plain Dealer editor George Rodrigue announced a "painful adjustment": The paper would be reducing its newsroom staff by 12 reporters, photographers and editors within the next two weeks. He attributed the decision to declining revenue from print advertising.
"The essence of a reduction in force like this is that good people lose their jobs, through no fault of their own," Rodrigue wrote. "That is a kind of tragedy, and one that will be deeply felt by everyone at The Plain Dealer."
These forthcoming layoffs are in addition to
the outsourcing of 24 production jobs in the paper's "Pub Hub." Rodrigue announced in December that the work of local copy editors, layout designers and illustrators would be relocated to a "centralized production system" — i.e., non-union remote editors working at various sites owned by Advance, the paper's corporate parent. (Rodrigue noted in his Friday email that this new production system is scheduled to start in May.)
The PD's personnel decision comes only days after the News Guild suggested a joint subscription drive
. In a letter Tuesday, guild members requested that for every 500 new subscriptions purchased, one local journalist's job be preserved for an additional year.
Rodrigue did not acknowledge the proposed drive in his email, but he did mention subscribers. He said that while they have been "extraordinarily loyal" over the years, there "must be a limit to their generosity; we need to keep our expenses within the means of our readers."
Also, no doubt, they must keep their expenses down for Advance, a company which has had no qualms about coughing up tremendous dough to maintain two news operations in the same city — the print (union, Plain Dealer); and digital (non-union, cleveland.com) newsrooms — an inefficient arrangement designed, everyone knows, to kill the union.
"This is not the end of the story, but another chapter in it," wrote Rodrigue.
Well, it may very well be the final chapter for the nation's first News Guild. That's why the Plain Dealer is Local 1.
Its tiny membership has been decimated by this latest assault.
In a statement
, the Guild said that its membership had been reduced by roughly 90 percent in the past 20 years, from 340 to about 30, after the latest cuts.
"Guild journalists have stuck it out through pay cuts, skyrocketing health care costs and a frozen pension because doing this work — this service — for many is a lifelong vocation," the Guild wrote.
They said that Rodrigue assured them in December that the outsourcing of 24 production jobs was in order to save money so that the newsroom could focus on important local reporting.
"But with today's decision," they wrote, "it's clear to us the cuts are meant to crush a union." (The Guild also said that they were told 14 newsrooms staffers would be laid off, but that two production jobs would be added to the newsroom, so the net loss is still 36.)
Rodrigue, to conclude, made a point of thanking the journalists for "pouring their souls into a noble calling."
"I also want to thank our subscribers and our advertisers for supporting us as we have evolved over the past decade. A region like ours deserves a great newspaper, and your loyalty sustains us."
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