Friday, March 20, 2009

Better enjoy the weekend...

A story appeared in the Willamette Week a few days ago. For those of you who don’t know – Willamette Week is the local weekly alternative paper that somehow always has breaking news about what is going on at The Oregonian before those of us who work at The Oregonian have it. Here’s what it said:

“The Oregonian told staff last week it would share bad news with employees on Monday, March 23. Staff expects the cost-cutting news to include some combination of measures such as pay cuts, furloughs, layoffs or reductions in hours.”

First of all…The Oregonian has not told staff that it will share bad news with us on Monday. We all saw this story, forwarded it to everyone we work with, speculated, worried, conferred. Then we asked our bosses and Human Resources what they knew. Only THEN were we told that on Monday we will be getting a letter detailing some changes. But no one knows anything. I am sure that someone knows something but isn’t telling us.

Here at The O, we are pretty attuned to what is going on in our industry. At least us “worker bees” are attuned. Most of us keep up with the many newspaper sites throughout the country and blogs/forums that discuss the goings on in cities everywhere. We are usually the first to know that there is a chance a newspaper will go bankrupt. We hear murmurs about layoffs, buyouts and downsizing. So, when we heard this news about ourselves, we started to investigate. We found out that other Newhouse papers are also expecting to get some sort of news on Monday. The rumor in Michigan is that their papers are going to publish only 3 days a week. The rumor in Portland is pay cut – across the board pay cut.

The newspaper division owned by Newhouse has a loyalty pledge. So every newspaper tells this to their employees – “any full- time, non-represented employee, who is past their probationary period and performs their job satisfactorily, will not be laid off due to economic downturn or advances in technology”. This has always been a retention tool used by the papers. This makes a job at a Newhouse paper a great job. That and many other things make this a great place to work.

There is talk that the pledge may be adandoned. That would be so sickening to me, I don’t know what I would do. Why have a pledge that you won’t lay people off during economic hardship, only to change your mind once you are in the midst of economic hardship. Why even bother with the pledge in the first place?

I was thinking about all this last night and I started to get very angry. The whole situation with newspapers make me angry – because we are no better than the banks and the car manufacturers. We’ve been running the same stupid program for years, turning a blind eye to things that aren’t right, padding our pockets, doing what is best for us – while trying to pretend we give a shit about our customers. Now, all of a sudden, we are in trouble and the best ideas we have are to offer buy outs, pay cuts, consolidations.

I wonder if there is a group somewhere trying to figure a way out of this – or if they just keep hoping we “cycle” out of it – which we won’t, or things just get better – and they aren’t. Or is there just a group deciding where to make cuts – what expenses to reduce?

Advance Publications (Newhouse newspapers) has a handful of papers across the country and we have NO contact with each other – no sharing of ideas, successes, challenges. Advance Internet (the online portion of Newhouse) has websites across the country affiliated with these papers. At every property, the relationship with the online affiliate is dysfunctional – or as I heard someone at the NJ Star Ledger say – “it would have to improve greatly to be considered dysfunctional”. It has been this way for years. We sit and shake our heads at all the missed opportunities because of this f-ed up relationship. Is there any discussion going on at higher levels to FIX this?

I feel like our owners have given up on us, like they are just chipping away until there is nothing left to chip at. I know that my pay has gone down over 25% in the last year and now there are rumors it will go down at least another 10%. How much has THEIR pay gone down? I have had to cut out a bunch of expenses, what have THEY had to cut out? I am at the point where I don’t have much more I can cut. I still subscribe to the newspaper. I LOVE the newspaper – getting it out of the tube and spreading it out on the table every morning while I drink my coffee is one of the highlights of my day. I haven’t given up on them. Why are they giving up on us?

I don’t want to go to a meeting next week to be told what they cutting. I want to go to a meeting next week to be told what they are doing to help us grow. Maybe I’m living in a dream world. Seems like there is a lot of that going on these days.

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