Belo’s Providence Newspaper Cutting Jobs. So Why Did Executives in Dallas Get Raises and Bonuses?

Last week the A.H. Belo-owned Providence Journal announced that it’s cutting 30 jobs due to an ongoing slump in ad sales. It’s not hard to understand why revenue would drop, given that the paper’s circulation is down 45% from a high point in 1999. Everybody understands that when a company isn’t making the money that it used to and foresees that trend continuing for sometime that expenses have got to be cut. The management and employees have got to pull together and make sacrifices to get through these tough times in the hope of finding a path to a brighter (likely digital) future.

Only, an observer in nearby Worcester notes, things have already been looking up for Belo executives here in Dallas. Even as Providence falls apart.

Thanks to Ted Nesi’s excellent coverage over at WPRI, we learn in reverse chronological order:

“Projo plans roughly 30 job cuts amid ongoing slump in sales” –Last week.

“Projo lays off 23 as ad sales drop 13%; CEO remains gloomy” – Nov. 8, 2012.

“Projo management seeking $1.2M in concessions or layoffs” — Oct. 11, 2012

Etc….

During roughly the same period, we also learn:

“Projo parent company’s top four execs share $1.7M in bonuses” – April 2, 2013

“Projo company’s CEO will make $300,000 – after he retires,” June 19, 2013

“Projo parent AH Belo’s board awards big raises to top bosses,” March 2012

“Projo parent A.H. Belo’s execs get $1.6M in bonuses” – April 4, 2011.

Etc.


We’ve seen a similar story at the Morning News. Things also haven’t been great at Belo’s Riverside, Calif., paper either. So how is this playing with Journal employees?

Executive bonuses in just two of the years mentioned above amount to more than double the amount of concessions extracted from an already desiccated news and sales operation.

How can this be justified? I put that question to the company’s CFO, Allison K. Engel, listed as the company’s investor-relations contact, and will let you know if I hear back.

But, John Hill, president of the Providence Newspaper Guild, has an answer: It can’t! Says Hill on the phone the other day:

It is extremely disheartening to have sat across the table from them – multiple times — to hear them say what dire condition the business is in, and that we have to make sacrifices, including to our membership, and then to see the top executives in Dallas literally three months later take as bonuses the money we gave them as savings. It makes it really hard to sell austerity.

Let’s just call that the understatement of the year.

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