We live in a time of media cuts. Newspapers are shrinking, trimming the size of their broadsheets and the scope of their coverage. The explosion of the Internet has led to both the proliferation of information (some of it important) and the destruction of the old advertising-based business model that’s kept newspapers running for the last century.
It’s never a good thing when a news organization cuts staff. Doesn’t matter the newsroom or the location. News outlets, including the supposedly obsolete newspapers need more people on the payroll, not less. Nonetheless, I wasn’t too surprised to read this unbylined story in today’s Maui News explaining how a new labor contract just ratified by News employees will mean serious employee and benefit cuts.
Among the cuts:
• “hours will be reduced by 1.25 hours per week starting Aug. 1, with the hours to be restored July 31, 2014”
• “higher share of medical premiums”
• “workforce reduction of 14 to 18 employees”
Maui News Publisher Joe Bradley called the agreement deal a “vote of confidence” in the future of the paper, but it’s hard to agree. Some employees, according to the story, will leave the paper voluntarily. Others will be shown the door.
It’s an old story: a newspaper cuts sections, coverage and staff, until it’s a shell of what it was just a decade ago. Then the owners wonder aloud why people don’t read it anymore and companies stop advertising, and then start cutting again…
The cuts announced today should have been expected. Back in March 2011, The Maui News had sought to eliminate 10 positions. During a meeting with labor leaders at the time, Bradley made a particularly brutal case.
“At Wednesday’s meeting, Bradley asked the unions to consider a proposal to reduce the workweek from 37.5 to 35 hours – a 6.6 percent pay cut – and to delay by one year a 3 percent snapback (2 percent in wages; 1 percent in pension) set to occur on July 1,” stated a Pacific Media Workers Guild (which represents some of the paper’s employees) press release issued at the time. “In support of the request, he provided union leaders with details of sharp advertising revenue declines in a number of key categories.”
In May 2011, the Maui News employees agreed on a new labor contract that would rescind that layoff notice and prohibit further layoff notices until April 1, 2012. Apparently, The Maui News‘ owners (that would West Virginia-based Ogden Newspapers) didn’t waste any time once the deadline passed.
Photo: Library of Congress/Wikimedia Commons