Free Press And News Trimming Staffs By Offering Selected Buyouts

July 23, 2012, 4:39 PM

In an efforts to further reduce their personnel, Detroit's two daily newspapers and the third company that runs the papers' business operations are offering buyouts to senior members of their staffs.

The Free Press and News, caught like virtually every other printed American newspaper in a digital revolution that has sapped ad sales and readers, has already cut their employes by at least a third over the past several years and demanded unpaid furlough weeks and pay cuts. The Free Press has seen several experienced staffers depart over the past several months, including the No. 2 person, managing editor Jeff Taylor.

At the Free Press, owned by the Gannett Company, employees were warned earlier this summer that some sort of reductions were coming, and the buyouts announced Monday are not expected to be the final cuts. The unionization of the paper's journalists complicates efforts to reduce the staff, but the collective bargaining agreement with the Newspaper Guild expires before the end of the year. 

A letter to eligible employees at the Free Press terms the buyout plan "one part of our ongoing strategy to transform our company, adding: "At this time we are offering this program instead of pursuing other cost management actions, but we cannot rule out other actions in the future."

The buyouts are open to employees with 20 or more years of service who are 56 years old. They would receive two weeks pay for each year of work, capped at 52 weeks, and health care during the extended pay period.

The offer was made to 40 employees at the Free Press and 31 at the News, but not every person who meets the criteria will be allowed to accept the buyout; the management can limit the offer to a certain number of people in the various job classifications, such as reporters and photographers. Managers also were offered the buyouts.

The Detroit Newspaper Partnership, which operates the non-journalistic functions at the two papers, also offered buyouts Monday.

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