Star-Telegram Sheds 22 Staffers

Here’s the memo to staff from the president and publisher of the paper:

To: All Employees
From: Gary Wortel
Date: February 8, 2011

Over the past six months we have seen encouraging financial improvements in several areas, including retail, employment, local automotive, online and targeted publications. We continue to outperform local competitors in total audience and our broad range of advertising solutions is producing results for customers.

But as we’ve read in our own paper, the economy and many sectors of our advertising business are still struggling. Although we remain optimistic for the long term, it is proving impossible to predict when a turnaround will occur. Therefore we must continue to tightly control and reduce expenses until we are certain recessionary challenges are behind us

Today we are announcing a staff reduction of approximately 22 positions, plus the elimination of a number of open positions. Where reductions are necessary in work groups, we are offering a voluntary option. As we’ve done in the past, if enough employees do not take the voluntary option, those work groups will be reduced according to least tenure.

Employees impacted by this reduction have been notified by their manager and given information about a transition package that includes severance pay, and for those who qualify, subsidized benefits continuation. Employees included in the work groups eligible for the voluntary option will be receiving information packets this afternoon. In the meantime, if you have any questions, please direct them to your manager, Darla Ruiz or Matt Byars in Human Resources.

As we’ve discussed before, we are not just fighting the recession, we also are transitioning to a new hybrid media company. Although that sounds complicated, it really means keeping our focus on what’s important: Providing value to our readers and advertisers. Offering the best support we can to all our customers during these hard times. And continuing to expand the ways we distribute our content and advertising. Your strong efforts are helping us improve in all these areas and ultimately will allow us to avoid these painful reductions in the future.

I appreciate the dedication of each Star-Telegram employee and want to thank you for your contributions.



  • jordanofheadlines

    A certain editor of a certain DFW publication said to me last March: “We were the fifth-largest newsroom when we started cutbacks, and we’re still the fifth-largest.” He wasn’t smiling. We have not seen the last of the cutting the flesh below to save the cancer at the top. My advice? It’s the same I’ve preached since writing the song “Firing Line” and sending it to a certain publisher: Get a labor lawyer and begin to unionize! Keeping your head down will no longer get it done. P.S. That certain editor led a union effort when he was still young. No libel, it’s a fact.

  • Rico

    Yeah, unionize. That’ll fix the problem.

  • Fact checker

    Who is leaving?

  • Joe Hill

    “Begin to unionize”? Oh, please. Have you seen the comedy that is the attempt of Harper’s Magazine employees trying to unionize to stop the layoffs? The whole magazine would shut down tomorrow if the millionaire owner decided he was tired of losing $4 million a year on it. And yet the employees really think a union is the way to protect jobs that they only have because a rich man is willing to lose a fortune on it every year.

    As a journalist myself, I feel awful when fellow journos lose work. The purpose of a union is to protect workers from being mistreated by management. Shedding workers from a business that’s going into the toilet is not a management abuse that can be stopped by union organizing.

  • jordanofheadlines

    None of the above is analogous to the Dallas market. Publisher has many irons in the fire that he “hopes” will work. Unions are effective when they are targeted at individual circumstances. Stop with the wide-brush, putative analysis. I know too much insider dope about a certain Dallas publication that fears embarrassment at its local country club. Spare me the naivete that we have jobs based on owner altruism. LOL. You need a history lesson! Want to get the publisher’s attention? Everybody on production side walk out at 10 p.m. one night. No paper hits the streets. Short-sited, weak-willed publisher who once went to Capitol Hill with hat in hand won’t have any recourse than to bargain (at least to his limited thinking). Get back your 401(k) deal. Make sure any layoffs are LIFO! Union talk is more valid now than ever, but the sheep are nervous. I walked the talk (or lilt). How about the rest of you?

  • jordanofheadlines

    Filed under courage of conviction:

    EAST STROUDSBURG | About 550 service and non-professional employees at the Pocono Medical Center are set to go on strike for 24 hours starting this morning.
    The union representing nursing assistants, service and maintenance workers, housekeepers, cafeteria workers and others claim the East Stroudsburg hospital has engaged in a pattern of unfair labor practices.
    “We’re fighting for respect and dignity,” said Kim Warner, of Tobyhanna, who sits on the negotiating team of the SEIU Healthcare PA.
    “It’s not an easy decision that we’re going to picket lines tomorrow, but we deserve respect,” she said.

  • Joe Hill

    Again I say unto you: Please.

    I don’t believe “we have jobs because of owner altruism.” But there’s no getting around the fact that newspapers are a dying industry. Some papers in the US are unionized. Is that saving them? If unions were the answer to what ailed newspapers, I’d put on my Norma Rae panties and climb up on top of the copy desk with my sign. Unions don’t have anything to do with whether or not people want to buy newspapers, which in the end is the only factor that matters.

    I’m not anti-union in principle, nor do I think management is big-hearted, or even smart. I just think the idea that unions will save newspaper jobs is incredibly naive under present circumstances. If your union were able to make people buy newspapers again, then it would be worthwhile. I don’t see that happening. Unionizing in these particular circumstances is a futile gesture, therapeutic but useless.

  • Buck

    Did you like that Dallas taxi strike?

  • Joe Hill

    Re: the East Stroudsburg situation, if the Pocono Medical Center really has engaged in unfair labor practices, fine, strike. Has the Startlegram or the DMN behaved unjustly in laying people off? If you know the situation at either paper, you could easily say, “Why did those idiots in management lay of A, B, and C, when X, Y, and Z are total deadheads?” But a bad decision here and there is not the same thing as “a pattern of bad labor practices.” I’ve worked at one of these papers, and while, like most Dallas journalists, I could sit around all afternoon nursing my beer and bitching about the stupid management practices I’ve seen, I can’t say that I’ve observed anything unfair. I’ve watched management do its best to try to save the paper under worsening circumstances. I used to think that if they only did what I wanted them to do, the paper would be in much better shape. I no longer think that. I don’t think anybody has the answer, at least not yet.

    Anyway, “me and my friends getting pink-slipped by a dying business” is not the same thing as “unfair labor practices.”

  • jordanofheadlines

    Wow, you really don’t know what you don’t know, at least about the DMN. This is the same management group that brought you “circulation overstatement” and cost me and everybody who worked there $26M. But that’s what they reported to us, and they were just exposed as business cheats and liars, so who really knows. I was allowed to hang out along the event horizon of management my entire 13 years without a management title(don’t ask me why; closeted gay managers, brilliance, perhaps.) There is so much you don’t know or are naive to. OK, labor practices? In 2004, they laid off Cheryl, the books editor. Stated the HR line that it was the job, not her (she was in her 50s). By the end of the week, oops, they formally announced the new books editor. They screwed with the wrong worker, though. Cheryl sued, and she won a lot of dough. And that affects everybody who works there. I’m not flaming you, but you must do some homework before you write. You are indeed out of your league on this one. The DMN has bullied its workers forever. All I was proposing was a unified front from labor. Call it what you want, but there must be something to counter management now. And, yes, kids, it can work if you have courage and cause.