Palm Beach Post To Cut 300 Jobs

It's been a long time coming, but Palm Beach Post publisher Doug Franklin handed down the bad news today (thanks to Pulp readers for posting it). Bottom line:

-- 300 jobs will be cut company-wide. -- 130 newsroom jobs will be cut. -- Buyouts are being offered to employees with at least five years vested in the pension plan.

This is worse than expected (100 newsroom jobs had been floated here a couple of times). It's gut-wrenching. Here's the memo:

June 25, 2008

To: All Employees of Palm Beach Newspapers, Inc. Re: Reduction in Workforce Plans

I am writing today to advise you of the changes that will begin taking place throughout our company this week.

Our plan is to reduce our workforce of 1,350 by more than 300 full-time equivalent positions across The Palm Beach Post, Florida Pennysaver, and La Palma. The Palm Beach Daily News will not be affected. The reductions will impact most departments throughout the company, as well as most levels in the organization. Roughly 130 of these reductions will come from The Post's newsroom; with more than 60 each in Advertising and Production, and more than 40 in Circulation. Roughly 80 positions throughout the company are already vacant through attrition, and many of these open positions will be eliminated to help us achieve the needed staff reduction.

The first phase of this workforce reduction will be a voluntary separation plan offered to most employees with a minimum of five years of pension vesting service. The voluntary offers may be limited in certain departments based on business needs. After we see the number of volunteers, we may limit departures in some departments to avoid disrupting essential services. We hope the voluntary phase of our plan will account for most of the necessary reductions. After the voluntary effort, we will move to involuntary staffing reductions in August to reach the appropriate staffing levels.

We have said often in recent weeks that we need to become a smaller company. This is a time of great change, challenge and uncertainty in our business; and the steps we are about to take are indeed difficult and painful to make. But they are necessary changes if we are to remain a strong and profitable company. A prolonged slump in our advertising revenues, increased competition from the internet, and an overall difficult economic environment have combined to make this type of cost reduction necessary. This is indeed an economic 'perfect storm.'

Since April 1, we have been working on plans to make our company more efficient and more nimble. You've no doubt seen the many changes and consolidations that have been taking place throughout the newspaper to conserve increasingly costly newsprint. In addition, we'll soon merge the Classified Call Centers, Ad Make-up and Ad Art departments of The Palm Beach Post and Florida Pennysaver. We're also looking at opportunities to close or consolidate some of our buildings in the market, evaluating new partnerships for both printing and distributing of some of our products, and exploring ways to generate more profitable revenue through advertising pricing discipline and innovation. In addition, for all employees of PBNI, we will be evaluating the possibility of foregoing salary increases in 2009. These are but a few of the steps we'll take to accelerate our transition back to profitability in 2009.

I recognize that this memo represents the "bad news" many of you have been expecting for some time, and I am sorry that we have been unable to share the specifics of the plan before today. We have all worked diligently over these past two years to offset our revenue losses by reducing payroll and operating expenses where we could, but this has simply not proven to be enough. We are among the last metro newspaper companies in Florida to announce staff reductions. We now face the reality of saying "good-byes" to many of our loyal friends and colleagues who have served PBNI so well.

We should take this opportunity to salute our past, and recognize the many successes that we've shared in recent years as a result of the hard work and dedication of so many people here. We've been blessed with fabulous resources and great latitude to do our work-probably more than we should have expected for a newspaper of our size. We took those resources and produced a great slate of products with them-and this is something that we can be proud of forever. None of this would have been possible without many talented people working together to create the greatness we achieved.

We are, and will remain, the #1 multi-media option for our advertising customers, readers, and website visitors in our market. Despite our current revenue challenges, I am quite certain that when we come through this difficult period, we will be better poised to take advantage of the rebound this marketplace is sure to enjoy. We continue to live and work in a growth market with a great up-side. Our websites are experiencing record page view growth. Despite the declines in print circulation in recent years, our total audience in print and online is stable and growing. We're investing in niche products, and will continue to explore new ways to capture new audiences.

For those employees eligible for the Voluntary Separation Program, your department head will have a schedule of when and where the individual information packets will be distributed. This will be available to you today. I ask for your cooperation as we move through this process as swiftly as possible. If you have additional questions, please feel free to contact me or Linda Murphy in Human Resources.

I thank you for your patience over these past few months, and look forward to better days ahead. To those who will be leaving us, we remain committed to going about this difficult process in a caring and compassionate way.

Doug Franklin Publisher The Palm Beach Post Palm Beach Daily News Florida Pennysaver La Palma

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