Management at the Detroit Free Press has sent a wave of uneasiness in the new newsroom on Fort Street by announcing the layoffs of some workers.
The layoffs come right before the Thanksgiving holiday and Christmas.
Specifically, the paper announced today and Wednesday that it had laid off one editor and three other workers -- two editorial research assistants and a web producer. Everyone but the editor is in the Detroit Newspaper Guild bargaining unit.
At some papers around the country, Gannett, which owns the Free Press, has been carrying out mass layoffs and telling people they have to re-apply for their jobs.
Lou Grieco, president of the local Guild, said that's harder to do in Detroit because of the existence of the union, and the fact the paper would have to lay off people according to seniority. The contract does, however, allow management a certain number of exemptions to protect less senior workers from getting laid off.
Jim Schaefer, a Free Press reporter who has worked there 21 years, posted this on his Facebook page:
The Free Press announced the layoffs of three people today, to go with another layoff from yesterday. So please keep my colleagues in your thoughts and prayers as they face a tough holiday season.
Rachel May, the laid-off editor, wrote on Facebook:
It's with a heavy heart that I'm sharing this news. After almost 17 years at the Detroit Free Press I have become a victim of reduced staffing and budget cuts. As of today, I am no longer an employee of the paper. Just like that. My job search begins immediately. If you know of a company looking for a loyal and hard-working employee, please let me know. — feeling sad.
Free Press Editor and Publisher Paul Anger has not yet returned a call requesting comment.