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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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  • dallasmay

    They need to kill the daily concept. They should move to a long-form journalism weekly or monthly magazine, with day-to-day news being reported online only.

  • L3

    Would you pay for the DMN? There’s your answer.

  • April Ellis

    Thank you for the coverage of this sad story, D. I know as Vognar says the economics of print journalism are mucked, but damn, I am devastated to see longtime, talented journalists let go, and especially to see arts coverage cut even further.

  • CSense

    Dropped the DMN subscription years ago. Waste of time and money.

  • Ed Huff

    Tried many times to get an online subscription. We get the print edition but I also wanted to individually get an online account and was willing to pay additional for it. Circulation had a real problem with the two account concept. it was harder than achieving peace in the Middle East. I finally just gave up. I am sorry about the lost jobs. Personally, I feel like the Guide Live has been first rate.

  • tested123

    I can explain the problem the DMN faces using my own personal experience. Years ago, my family subscribed to the DMN and my dad, mom and I read it faithfully every morning. There was news in there we did not get anywhere else. It had detailed writing on local, state and national news from reporters employed by the Dallas Morning News.

    As the internet grew in influence, the number of news sources jumped and the importance of the DMN faded, but it wasn’t just because of competition for our time. The actual reporting in the DMN was not as good as it used to be. And flash forward to now, the lack of good reporting is what’s killing the DMN. I go on their website and find a mess of stories that are days or weeks old. A lot of links are to things that were not written by DMN reporters.

    The physical paper itself is a sad shell of what it used to be. It containes a ton of wire copy on issues that are of little importance to me. The editor of the News laments the fact they don’t have a full time environmental reporter anymore. Honestly, that’s not nearly as problematic as not having better coverage of city hall or the suburbs where a lot of News readers live.

    A few years ago after big hikes in subscription rates for daily delivery, we cut back to Wednesday and Sunday delivery only with online access. Then they hiked that by quite a bit, so we cut back to online only. Recently the DMN attempted a 50% hike in our monthly subscription to its online product. I said no (I called to cancel) and they agreed to back off and keep us at our old rate. I pay for their journalism, but I’m not going to give them a 50% increase in what I pay for a steeply diminishing return. The executives who got raises recently need to pay attention and rethink what they’re doing.

    Ask yourself this question: when is the last time you picked up a print edition of the Dallas Morning News? Do you mostly read it online? I do. If the DMN is looking for somewhere to cut, how about doing away with the print edition? Go online only. I honestly don’t think most of their readers would miss it and it would absolutely cut their cost of operation significantly without hurting their journalism.

  • PeterTx52

    the advent of Craigslist killed the newspaper industry’s cash cow — the classified ads. They were blindsided by that. and thus began the slippery slope. Local newspapers the like the DMN failed to realize that with the arrival of the internet that their reach was no global not just North Texas.
    Their current website is a holy mess. you can’t find anything. Stories get published online and then appear in the print edition 3 to 5 days later depending upon the story. now lets say you see a story in the print edition you go to and try to search for the article. you give up and go to google which can find the story. why is the Friday Guide a separate website?
    the arrival of Keven Wiley saw the gradual transformation of the DMN into a liberal newspaper. Opinions infiltrated news stories. I would love to know how many subscriptions were cancelled as a result of their endorsement of HRC for President.
    Finally i’m surprised that D Magazine didn’t dig into why Jim Moroney III retired as CEO so suddenly and his cousin Decherd came back as CEO.

  • Bullfrog

    DMN is too liberal-leaning for DFW and Texas in recent years. The demise of print media was also a big factor but the editorial stance on politics became too heavily biased for many readers. In a conservative red state the DMN published 95% liberal/progressive POV that extended far beyond the opinion page. Double Whammy for readership and revenues.

  • George

    When I first moved to the Metroplex (from CA) in 1996 for graduate school, I bit on an offer for a daily subscription ($11/mo.) so I could become more familiar with my new surroundings. I enjoyed the News, especially the Thursday Personal Technology section as well as the Monday Science section. The Business section was quality as were other parts of the paper, making the overemphasis on sports somewhat bearable. However, somewhere in the early “aughts” the paper lost its way.

    The Personal Technology and Science sections went from stand alone sections to one page each folded into other parts of the paper. Investigative pieces were fewer and far between. My interest in the paper started to fade, though I kept my subscription out of a sense of loyalty to journalism and the efforts that some were still making to produce a quality product. But eventually I came to the conclusion I was essentially subscribing to the Dallas Cowboys Morning News that also contained some other news items, most not worthy of intellectual interest. So I reluctantly stopped my subscription a number of years ago.

    Claims by some that the paper became “too liberal” are just nonsense. The decrease of classified revenue certainly played a large role, but the quality of the paper could still have been maintained and it was not. In addition, the website is a complete mess and has needed a complete overhaul for years. I’ve flirted over the years with getting a digital subscription, but there are just better options out there for those wanting more than one Cowboy/football/sports article after another (without any investigative sports journalism). I’ve had an online subscription to the NYT for years and am very happy with it. I would like to support local journalism, but the quality doesn’t even come close to the NYT, WaPo, WSJ, or other big papers. At least listening to KERA keeps me informed on issues of interest both locally and statewide, and their ratings show there is a strong demand in this area for high quality journalism.

    I feel bad for some of the talented people let go. I enjoyed reading many Chris Vognar pieces as well as the writings of Jeff Mosier, whose excellent reporting during the Cowboys money grab for their new stadium was refreshing reading. Sadly ironic that those two are out of a job but the DMN still publishes pieces from the phony blowhard Mark Davis. This sadly encapsulates the demise of a once quality publication.

  • JohnMyroro

    The expected comments are of course already here about how the DMN is “liberal” and thus is losing subscribers. I am almost 70 and have lived here my whole life, and Belo is not now and never has been “liberal.” Their endorsement of Hillary, the first time they’d endorsed a Dem since approximately the last ice age, made national news. That’s how “liberal” they are.
    Actually, if they are going to survive digitally, they are going to have to really become “liberal,” as that audience is different, younger, and less hide-bound than the one that takes the dead-tree edition. Millennials will not pay for a local version of Fox or the WSJ. The News will have to become a must-read source of local and regional info for people to pay for it, and the audience for that isn’t interested in the old Belo country-club Republicanism.

  • Jim Schutze

    Look around the country. When regional dailies go monopoly, they lose the rationale for pissing off big local advertisers. They can no longer tell them, “We hate telling our readers the truth as much as you do, but we have to do it or those bastards across the street will tell them the truth just to get ahead of us.”
    Consistently, when big regional dailies go monopoly, they lose their teeth and fangs on tough LOCAL stories.
    They try to cover their impotence by following the two rivers rule: do your tough reporting at least two rivers away from home.
    They become BORING on the only stories anybody would read them for — LOCAL stories. So readers get bored and go away. Now there’s no audience to sell to advertisers, so they go away, too.