According to Tom Knox of Bizjournals, the Columbus Dispatch employees will again be faced with a troubling decision and an even murkier future ahead of more layoffs and severances.
The Dispatch which had around 800 workers at midyear sent out letters to employees on Tuesday with an Aug. 29th deadline to accept a severance offer.
The letter from GateHouse CEO Kirk Davis outlined that their performance has “improved and outperformed our industry peers.” Regardless, he expects to see a drop in revenue and looks to “align our expenses accordingly.” This is an alarming sentiment when one takes into account The Dispatch is likely one of GateHouse Media’s top publications outside of their largest market, Boston.
The severance package features one week of pay for every year on the job, up to 13 weeks. The employees who’ve been with the company for 20 or more years would get 17 weeks of pay. This is in comparison to an original severance package that was offered in August 2015 which was capped at 26 weeks. A dramatic difference but one should be aware that in Ohio, severance packages aren’t mandatory as we are an at-will employee state.
Following the initial cuts in August, GateHouse revealed plans to cut costs by $10M in the following two years.
All this news falls on the back of a rough past few years for The Dispatch & GateHouse Media in terms of stability. This past year saw the original owners, The Wolfe family, selling the paper for $47M, an initial cut of 20+ newsroom employees, Editor Ben Marrison leaving and following that the copy and design being outsourced to Texas.
For the GateHouse Media, impending doom has been on the forecast since a Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in 2013 which listed a debt of $1.3 billion. This was all prior to GateHouse’s purchase of The Columbus Dispatch at $47M. Since their bankruptcy, they’ve grown far larger – adding onto what was then a modest 78 daily newspapers in 21 states, according to the company’s website circa 2013.
The Dispatch wasn’t the only newspaper to be offered buyouts ahead of these potential layoffs and while we don’t know the others, GateHouse Media now claims to have over 520 “markets” across 35 states.
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