Broward News

Sun-Sentinel to Make Employee Cutbacks

On Monday, Tribune Publishing announced new buyouts for its employees are coming in the next week as a cost-cutting move that's been brewing since September. As reported by CNN, the L.A. Times is expected to get hit the hardest, with at least one-tenth of that paper's editorial staff being cut. But, New Times has learned that the cuts are also going to hit the Sun-Sentinel, which is also owned by the Chicago-based Tribune Publishing.

According to an anonymous source who works at the Sun-Sentinel, the entire staff received an email Monday announcing an "Employee Voluntary Separation Program," which says the buyout program is "voluntary." Those who take the buyout, the email says, would receive a severance package that includes certain medical benefits continuation, outplacement services, as well as equity vesting, and retiree medical.

The cuts have been something looming over the company since former Baltimore Sun publisher Timothy Ryan replaced the fired Austin Beutner as publisher of Tribune Publishing on September 8. But, according to the anonymous source, the feeling of foreboding within the Sun-Sentinel has been building up even before then. 

"My particular department has been working in a frustrating environment," the source, who has worked for the advertising side of the Sentinel for 10-plus years, says. "People are frustrated for not getting raises in five years, with no room for growth. We've watched them shaving down our department and then asking more from people without proper compensation except for maybe a gift card, sometimes."

The source says that the Sun-Sentinel advertising department has been outsourcing jobs to India to handle local accounts such as Al Hendrickson Toyota, Auto Nation, and Doris Italian Markets. In this environment, the source says, employees who have complained about being overworked have been threatened to have their jobs sent to India as well. 

"Our bosses threaten us with 'you don't have to stay here, India can do your job,'" the source says. "But now they are!”

According to the email sent to employees, workers have until December 31 to decide if they want to take the buyout. The source believes the company is taking for granted just how many will actually take it, given the frustrating working environment.

"I think they're going to have to turn people away," the source says. "That's how many people I believe are going to take this. They're fed up."

According to the market research firm Kantar Media, the newspaper industry has seen ad revenue fall 13 percent during the second quarter. Moreover, Tribune Publishing, which owns 11 major dailies, and employs about 7,000, has seen revenue fall at the industry average. The company has been able to salvage revenue through cost cutting measures.  

"The senior management team and I recognize that each employee makes important contributions to our company," Tribune Publishing CEO Jack Griffin said in a memo sent to employees Monday morning. "At the same time, in the challenging revenue environment that all publishing companies face, it is critical that we make hard decisions and take the necessary steps that continue to position Tribune Publishing Company for success over the long term."

Matthew Hutchison, senior vice president of corporate communications for Tribune Publishing, declined to comment on this story when reached by New Times.

Meanwhile, the Sun-Sentinel employee who spoke with New Times says that, as far as they know, everyone at the paper received the memo, email, and package details. This includes the editorial staff, though that has not been confirmed.

The Sun-Sentinel did not immediately return messages for comment.

Employee Voluntary Separation Plan by Chris Joseph