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DMN Announces 43 Layoffs, Nearly Half in Editorial

The names have started to trickle out. Arts and culture coverage appears to be hit hard.

Staff at the Dallas Morning News received word this morning of another round of cuts that includes 43 employees, nearly half of which came from editorial. The corporate speak uses the word “reorganization” and pumps an investment in “technology platforms that support subscribers’ online experience.” The names have been trickling out.

So far, the list includes: culture critic Chris Vognar, GuideLive editor Sara Frederick, environment and energy reporter Jeff Mosier, Mavs beat writer Eddie Sefko, health and fitness writer Leslie Barker, music critic Kelly Dearmore, GuideLive writer Brentney Hamilton, photographer Louis DeLuca, features writer Brendan Meyer, staff writer Tasha Tsiaperas, and TV and entertainment writer Dawn Burkes.

Most of those names come from social media posts, which will no doubt continue throughout the day. We’ll update as they do. (If you’re a DMN staffer who’d like to discuss, please get in touch—[email protected]).

Staffers were notified over the weekend of a 9 a.m. all-hands meeting Monday morning. Editor Mike Wilson notified staff of the cuts at that meeting, telling the team that they’d receive a calendar invite to meet with HR if they were on the list. One staffer called the meeting “civilized,” and another said Wilson appeared emotional while delivering the news.

“It’s not a meeting that any editor wants to hold,” says Vognar.

Mosier tells me he refreshed his email during the meeting and saw the invite. A DMN vet of 24 years, Mosier added energy reporting to his environment coverage after reporter Jeff Weiss died in late 2017. Mosier says he’s under the impression both areas will be covered on a spot-news basis going forward.

“I can say pretty frankly … it’s fairly disappointing that a newspaper this size is not going to have a standalone environmental reporter,” Mosier says.

That’s been a tough area for the News. In 2015, the previous environmental writer, Randy Lee Loftis, took a buyout. Hit hard also are the areas of arts and culture. Vognar said the local cuts are in line with a national trend that is jettisoning this sort of coverage at many dailies.

“The economics of the newspaper business are ugly,” Vognar says. “It is what it is.”

The DMN put up a story this afternoon about the cuts, which represent a 4 percent reduction of the 978 employees working under parent company A.H. Belo Corporation. Those figures only serve to further demonstrate the way newspaper owners have tended to view their news-gathering employees. When there are cuts, there’s often a disproportionate impact on editorial.

Says the DMN:

Print revenue declines from advertising in recent months have been bigger than drops in circulation revenue, which has been falling mostly from home delivery and single copy newspaper sales. The company has focused on building its digital subscriptions.

“After considerable thought and analysis, our management team has determined that our business in the future is largely supported by subscription revenue and the need for more aggressive investment in our digital products,” Moise said.

The publicly traded company is due soon to report its fourth quarter financial results. Through the first nine months of the year, revenue declined 18.9 percent to $149.77 million from $184.55 million in the same period a year ago.

What that story does not mention:

There was also some earlier Twitter chatter about a December 31 U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing that showed a hedge fund named Minerva has taken a stake in the company. The filing, however, is a schedule 13G—denoting that this is a passive investor taking a small stake in the company. In this case, it’s about 5 percent. Had this been an active investor attempting to force a change at the company, it would’ve been a schedule 13D filing.

According to several employees, there is another all-hands meeting scheduled for late this afternoon.

UPDATE (3:28 p.m.): Talking Biz News reports the News will no longer run a standalone print business section, with the exception of its Sunday edition. Business coverage will otherwise fold into Metro. Further details to be announced in a DMN column on Wednesday, says TBN.

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