Layoffs Slam Philly.com, Daily News Hardest
As expected, layoffs were announced at Philadelphia Media Network on Wednesday afternoon — nearly 50 journalists and other workers at the Inquirer, Daily News, and Philly.com told they will lose their jobs as the company restructures.
The Newspaper Guild said Philly.com and the Daily News were the most heavily hit, each losing 17 staffers — the website losing roughly half its production staff — while the Inquirer was slated to lose a dozen people. The list of journalists losing their jobs included a number of familiar bylines, as well as behind-the-scenes staffers.
“I think it devastates the whole operation,” said Bill Ross, director of the guild, which represents journalists at the papers. “They wiped out the whole Daily News copy desk. It’s ridiculous.”
A Daily News journalist added: “DN is left with literally a handful of people. It’s staggering.”
“A blood bath,” added a Philly.com staffer.
“It’s a difficult day for everyone in our organization, most of all those who will be losing their jobs,” Keith Black, PMN’s vice president of human relations, said in a statement. “Like every media organization in America, we are going through a necessary restructuring to meet the realities and demands of a changing market. Out of respect for the individuals impacted, we will not be commenting further on this internal, personnel-related process. We have contracted with a highly respected outplacement firm to help these good folks find work as soon as possible.”
Ross declined to give the names of journalists who had lost their jobs. Philly Mag reached out to some of the journalists Wednesday afternoon, but those who responded said they weren’t ready to talk.
Some, however, took to social media to acknowledge they’d been let go.
Nov. 2012 – Dec. 2015. I love this city, and it loved me back. To everyone I met along the way: Thank you. VV pic.twitter.com/A0XyhVcf0G
— Vinny Vella (@Vellastrations) November 4, 2015
It's been real, twitter. Thanks for following.
— Ryan Lawrence (@ryanlawrence21) November 4, 2015
Lost my job today. So, sooo painful. So proud, though, of my 15 years at the best paper ever. Hopeful about what may come.
— Dana DiFilippo (@DanaDiFilippo) November 4, 2015
Daily News columnist Stu Bykofsky took to Facebook to share his displeasure.
Posted by Jason Nark on Wednesday, November 4, 2015
The workers were given 30 days notice, Ross said. In the meantime, the guild will decide whether to challenge some of the layoff decisions.
The newest contract between PMN and the Newspaper Guild allows the company to partially disregard “last hired, first fired” seniority rules and save up to 25 percent of the employees in groups targeted for layoffs, provided those employees were deemed “essential to the company’s operations.”
Ross said the guild may challenge the company’s determination of who was deemed “essential.”
“We’re not sure how we’re going to proceed. Some senior employees were laid off, some junior employees were saved,” he said. “We’ll see. We’re not there yet. We have 30 days to work this out.”
Ross added: “To put people on the street at Christmas, at Thanksgiving, to risk people’s health care and their children’s health care, it’s an absolute disgrace.”
The layoffs, he said, are supposed to become effective December 4th.
[Update] The Guild sent out this message to members on Wednesday night:
Subject: GUILD BULLETIN: IRREPLACEABLE LOSS
Dear Guild Members:
In an astonishing display of misdirected management, the Company today announced layoffs that decimate what just days ago the new publisher identified as the key to our future – digital reach and our unique print brands.
Of the Philly.com staff of 29, 17 Guild members will be gone as of Dec. 4.
At the Daily News, 10 reporters, including one as senior as 16 years, will be let go. Joining them in unemployment will be six copy editors, leaving one person to copy edit news (other than sports) and features. An editorial assistant that has served this company for 25 years is also among the casualties.
The Inquirer will lose five reporters, six copy editors and desk assistants, including an assigning editor, and one news artist.
The Guild is reviewing the layoff lists to determine whether any grievances are warranted.
In the meantime, the company assures that professional job-placement help will be provided to anyone wanting it.
Human Resources and a Guild representative will begin meeting tomorrow morning with those designated for termination to go over separation packages, including severance, COBRA and payment due for any unused time off.
In a profession known for its skill with words, we have none today to adequately express our shock, dismay and disgust over such an unimaginative and destructive path to the future.
In solidarity and heartache,
The Guild Executive Board (which is losing one member to layoff)
Bill Ross, Executive Director
Follow @JoelMMathis on Twitter.