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Plain Dealer newsroom employees learned on Thursday the company is planning layoffs after January 31, 2013. That’s when the contract prohibition against staff reductions expires.
The news came from Harlan Spector, chairman of the newspaper’s unit of the Newspaper Guild.
“The company confirmed there will be layoffs next year… With or without an agreement, the company says it will reduce the workforce,” Spector wrote. He could not be reached for comment.
The email seems to confirm suspicions the Plain Dealer will become a three-day-a-week publication. Guild members have launched a campaign “Save the Plain Dealer,” that would keep the newspaper publishing daily. If the campaign fails, the Plain Dealer could become one of the country’s largest newspapers to reduce its publication schedule.
Advance Publications, which owns the paper, is aggressively switching from print to the web. The company’s papers in New Orleans and Alabama now publish three times a week. Starting in January, papers in Harrisburg, Pa., and Syracuse, N.Y. will follow that schedule.
In all cases, the transition included massive layoffs. In New Orleans and Alabama, 600 people were let go. In New York, 112 people lost jobs. Reporters, editors and other journalists took most of the cuts. New Orleans lost 49 percent of its reporters. In Birmingham, 60 percent of the newsroom was released, according to poynter.org.
How the Transition Might Look
Changes at the other papers also suggest the Plain Dealer and Cleveland.com will merge, possibly into a “media group.” The company implemented that structure and name in New Orleans, Alabama, Syracuse and Pennsylvania.
One sticking point would be staffing. The union’s contract ensures guild members will provide most of the content for Cleveland.com. But the company wants to modify that agreement, which could have union and non-union members holding similar positions.
The guild’s “Save the Plain Dealer” campaign has focused attention on the daily paper. But a digital transition would also affect workers the Sun News. Advance Publications owns the chain of 11 weekly papers covering municipalities in Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lorain, and Medina counties.