Projo plans roughly 30 job cuts amid ongoing slump in sales

Projo_ad_sales_2Q2013Providence Journal executives told employees Friday they plan to cut roughly 30 jobs in the coming weeks through buyouts, and will resort to layoffs if too few workers choose to leave voluntarily, a union official said.

Providence Newspaper Guild President John Hill said reporters, editors and other employees were informed Friday morning about the decision to downsize the staff.

“We were told today they’re looking for in the ballpark of 30 positions but did not have a specific number at this point,” Hill told “They said the uncertainty is because they want to see how many people will put in for buyouts.”

The Journal’s management plans to get rid of both union and non-union jobs across the company, and Hill said they are “probably looking for more [cuts] from editorial than advertising.” The news was first reported on Twitter by Mike Stanton, who retired recently as The Journal’s chief investigative reporter.

The Journal’s advertising revenue fell 14% in the second quarter compared with last year, according to its Dallas-based parent company, A.H. Belo. “There’s really not much good news in the Rhode Island economy right now,” CEO Robert Decherd told investors in late July. The Journal’s average weekday circulation fell to 79,244 during the six months ended March 31, according to the Alliance for Audited Media.

Journal executives did not immediately respond to an email request for comment.

Hill said he wasn’t surprised by the announcement.

“I was disappointed and not surprised – that’s probably the best way to put it,” he said. “Anybody who’s picked up the papers the last few months can see they’ve been thin.”

Like newspapers across the United States, The Journal has been hit hard by the transition of readers – and advertising dollars – from print outlets to digital ones. The paper’s total revenue fell from $166 million in 2005 to $94 million in 2012, a drop of 43% in seven years.

“It’s tough,” Hill said. “These things have the potential to be very divisive. First off it’s a morale-killer right off the bat, because you’ve got people walking around for a month or so wondering if they have a job here, and there’s a lot of fault lines this can split people on. … People who can go, we hope will. And we’ll just have to see how it plays out.”

Journal employees are being offered a buyout package equal to 1.25 weeks’ pay for each year of continuous service to the company, up to a maximum of 10 weeks’ pay, Hill said. Medical coverage will not be included, he said. The deadline to apply for the buyout is Oct. 7. The last day of work for those who take a buyout will be Oct. 12.

“Once they know who’s gone they will then decide on which positions are going to be eliminated – that would be the layoff phase – and there are projections that that could be done by the end of [next] month,” Hill said. “It’s taken longer in the past.”

It’s unclear how many people currently work at The Journal. The size of the paper’s staff was pegged at 709 in August 2008, before the first in a series of rounds of layoffs over the past five years, and had fallen to 468 by the end of 2011. The newspaper laid off 23 more employees last November.

Hill’s Providence Newspaper Guild union currently represents about 150 to 160 Journal employees. Its current contract with the newspaper expires on Dec. 31, though Hill said the pact will remain in effect until a new one is negotiated. He said the union offered to discuss other concessions to avoid job cuts.

“Thirty is a lot, period, but the real question will be how many come out of the Guild, frankly,” Hill said. “It’s the Guild people who are out there in the field – be it reporters, photographers or ad people selling the ads – the Guild is where the rubber meets the road that makes the newspaper function. … Anything that diminishes that ability to do journalism to generate ad revenue is going to slow the whole thing down.”

Ironically, the new round of job cuts comes the same week the Providence Newspaper Guild is commemorating the 40th anniversary of its extended 1973 strike against The Journal.

More coverage of The Providence Journal on Nesi’s Notes:

20 thoughts on “Projo plans roughly 30 job cuts amid ongoing slump in sales

  1. 30 cut from 150? Really? They really want to cut 20% of the staff? One of the problems with the Journal now is a lack of content. What’s going to happen when you cut the content producers even further? They might as well switch to a weekly because that’s how many stories they’ll have on a daily basis.

    It shouldn’t be long until someone new steps in and wants to be a new daily newspaper in RI.

  2. Does anyone really “work” at the Projo? I mean, don’t they just re-print press releases from Deb Gist, the Tea Party, and Ken Block?

    • Nice try, Mr. Fish. Nice fake name, too. The Journal’s obfuscations and truthful reportage are actually a bit more sophisticated and complex than that which you describe.

      Your mention of the Tea Party marks you as just another paid-by-the-incomplete-sentence ACORN poster for-hire. Your mention of Mr. Block, who’s received scant coverage in ProJo, marks you as someone who’ll simply say anything no matter how divorced from reality it may be.

      You call yourself Mr. Fish, but your prose is pure bilge chaugie.

  3. Mr. Fish, why don’t you put up millions of dollars and create a media outlet that will bring down corrupt Supreme Court justices? Oh no, you don’t have that kind of cash? Didn’t think so. You’ll miss the watchdog when it’s gone, because there will be no one to take its place and the corrupt will rule the ocean state with glee. I hope you can afford to move out.

    • Pam –

      Isn’t that why some say the Belo Coporation took over the Journal in the first place, to protect Supreme Court judges and Lifespan, among others?

      The Belo Corporation has seen many fine reporters leave the Journal.

    • the projo is full of do nothing writers . some, like wayne miller write one story every 8 months. they have more editors than staff members, and it’s obvious that they lack the ingenuity and intellect to make the paper profitable. sad really, being the only game in town and yet they can’t get the paper to stay afloat. crappy website, only hack writers and photographers that are past their prime remain. every time a layoff comes along, being a union paper– they get rid of their brightest hardest working staffers…

      with the little amount of content and the crazy money they charge for wire service reprints that have appeared online elsewhere days before… the best that can happen is to let this old dog die off. may you go away quickly ProJo

  4. In a cruel twist of fate, just two days before the news of the buyouts/layoffs, the ProJo Guild members produced in-house and posted a superb documentary about the 40th anniversary of the 1973 strike. What’s really sad is that the Guild president, in his intro, praises the current salaries and benefits his members are now receiving. This keepsake documentary is a valuable history lesson on the September 1973 event. And not one negative word is uttered about current ProJo management/ownership.

    • john hill— another hack ! his interest as the president of the projo guild is to save his wife’s job or shall we say get her rehired after she was let go… he has worked some behind close doors deals with management to save his and her job. in return, he just rolls over every time the newspaper hits the workers . john hill looks out for just john hill…. maybe thats why you don’t hear anything against management.

  5. Advertising is down? Readership is down, too, thanks to their really brilliant decision to make citizens pay to read the on-line Journal.

    Belo Corporation was the beginning of the end of the Journal. The publisher of the wretched pinksheet, the Dallas Morning News, insisted that thugs who’ve sucked the lifeblood from Rhode Island for decades be protected, that not one word of truth about Lifespan be published, all the while diluting reporting standards.

    This announcement comes as no surprise. When the Journal stuck its so-called paywall up a couple months ago, it was obvious the end was in sight.

  6. Limiting comments to facebook users was not a smart move either.

    Bottom line: if you don’t use Facebook, projo does not care what you think about any of their articles.

    • Exactly! Many employers have web blockers that filter out things like Facebook. The majority of people posting post during work hours from a position of anonymity. They claimed it was to filter out nasty comments but I didn’t see much of that. What I did see was commenter telling us more in the comments than you could read from an article. Gee I wonder why they did that?

  7. Your answer is simple look at Rachel Jeantel, and that’s your future non readers….she cant read cursive or any other type of writing…and there are millions of them.

    So for newspapers to thrive again we need a WAR on EBONICS…….everyone must read, write and speak English…….no excuses.

  8. the providence journal is a complete waste. i know how you can save money. stop littering my driveway with your free publication. i pick it up EVERY week and it goes directly into the trash. RIGHT WHERE IT BELONGS!!!

  9. This is sad. But they still have a few older people hanging on who don’t contribute as much as the young people. If you are 65 or over, you’ve had a fine career and its time to take the buyout so some young folks can keep their jobs.

    • oh Robert, if you only knew… they have staffers that are 70-74 years old… dont’t want to leave becouse they are a bunch of useless , blood sucking leeches that would rather have a younger co-worker with a family get laid off instead of taking a buyout. galooly, kerr, dejardin, morgan, dickerman and a few others… shame on you– blood sucking leeches….

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