Thursday, February 05, 2009

McClatchy announces cost cuts; N&O to lose positions

This morning the N&O reported - - -

The corporate parent of The News & Observer announced this morning that it will take further steps to cut costs after reporting weaker fourth-quarter revenue and profit.

The McClatchy Co., which also owns the Charlotte Observer, Miami Herald and other newspapers across the country, will freeze its pension plans and temporarily suspend the company match to its 401(k) retirement plans, effective March 31.

McClatchy also is developing a plan to reduce costs by an additional $100 million to $110 million over the next 12 months. Details are still being finalized.

The plan is likely to include further job cuts, including some at The News & Observer Publishing Co. The Raleigh company eliminated more than 70 positions last year through voluntary buyouts and other steps.

"We had hoped that previous cuts would be sufficient to see us through the sharp revenue declines affecting our industry," N&O publisher Orage Quarles III said in a statement e-mailed to employees this morning.

"Unfortunately, we have seen an unprecedented loss in advertising revenue with many of our retailers and auto dealers either going out of business or leaving the area, and employment advertising dropping to all time lows," he said. "Instead, we must continue to respond to the deepening financial crisis that is threatening not only our industry but all kinds of businesses in almost every sector of the economy."

The company is exploring options that could limit the number of local layoffs, Quarles added.

The moves follow other cost-cutting efforts by McClatchy, including eliminating 1,150 jobs last year, freezing salaries and suspending its dividend.

As with other publishers, McClatchy has been hit hard as the recession erodes ad sales and readers migrate to the Internet. The company also is trying to reduce its $2.04 billion in debt. . . .

The company also warned today that its stock, which closed at 66 cents on Wednesday, faces delisting because it doesn't meet minimum requirements of the New York Stock Exchange. McClatchy has six months to comply with NYSE listing requirements.

In morning trading, the stock rose 4 cents to 70 cents. . . .

The entire N&O story’s here.

My comments:

Today’s news is no surprise. Yesterday I sent publisher Quarles the following email:

Dear Mr. Quarles:

As you no doubt know better than I, rumors of layoffs at the N&O have been constant for months.

Given that, I've not posted on them because I didn't see where I'd be doing anything other than needlessly making a tough situation for many people worse.

But in recent days there's been such a spike in the number and details of what I'm hearing about impending layoffs at the N&O from folks there.

So I plan to post now.

But I don't want to post without first fact-checking with you.

As in the past, I'll publish your response in full.

My questions:

1) Have new layoffs at the N&O been decided on?

2) If so, what details can you make public at this time?

3) N&O newsroom and other staffers I talk to are most concerned about the details of buyout packages. Can you say anything about those matters?

Thank you for your attention to my queries.

Quarles responded:

John, as in the past, I don't respond to rumors. If there is going to be any changes in the operation, I would inform my staff first. Thanks for asking.


Quarles' intention to inform his staff first of any changes is right. I thank him for his response.

The following Anon comment posted yesterday on a McClatchy Watch thread provides details of some of the recent cost cutting that’s been going on at the N&O:

No official announcements in Raleigh yet, but when the managing editor says cuts (expenses, newshole, perhaps jobs) are coming, it seems a bump up from rumor.

Outsourcing the Raleigh truck drivers to Penske is not rumor. I think that was about 70 or so people.

At least some of the Raleigh finance department are now working with Indians prior to apparent outsourcing.

I heard the sale of the Smithfield Herald property was completed. No details.

I’ll continue to follow this story as I have for quite a while.

That said, I want to tell you that of all the blogs I’m familiar with, McClatchy Watch does the best job of covering McClatchy overall; and in the case of the N&O, often beats me on a story.

A lot of you are journos, news hounds, and the like.

I’d love to hear what you’re thinking about McClatchy, the N&O and/or the news industry.


Anonymous said...


There is zero chance that McClathy will ever be able to repay the $2 billion in debt they have accumulated. The markets have already confirmed this with their share price.

They'll hang on for a while like a beggar waiting for the last handout of the day. Then they'll disappear silently into the night.

Good riddance.


Anonymous said...

I wonder if, when OQIII leaves the building for the last time, if he will have to turn out the lights or if the power company will already have done that for him?

Anonymous said...

N&O publisher Orage Quarles III, when will he ever get the axe? He has left his mark throughout the McClathy Empire where ever he served.

Anonymous said...

Never forget the N&O's inflammatory coverage of the lacrosse players in 2006. The newspaper libeled the falsely accused players as well as the entire team and cast the lacrosse players in a false light. To this day, publisher Quarles has not apologized for the infamous Khanna-Blythe story or for other Nifong-driven coverage. Shame.