Thursday, May 01, 2008

May Day Massacre at News-Press

A lightning round of layoffs took place at Wendy McCaw's News-Press on Thursday morning with as many as 16 employees of the troubled paper receiving pink slips.

The most recognizable names of those getting the axe are sports editor Barry Punzal, an employee of 20 plus years, and Life section editor, Mindy Spar.

The layoffs are believed to have begun shortly after 10 am Thursday when a number of employees from the downstairs departments in the paper's De la Guerra Plaza headquarters were told to gather their things and were escorted out of the building. Once outside they were told they were being let go and were asked to turn in their key cards to the building.

Among the employees was Elena Villenueva from the retail advertising staff. She was told that her position was being eliminated. Also let go was Bob Klinger from the camera department (not to be confused with the photo department.)

A memo from co-publishers McCaw and Arthur von Wiesenberger was circulated to employees citing the need to down-size and consolidate. In what is believed to be the first public acknowledgment of the toll that the newsroom unrest and rancor has had on the paper's bottom line the memo mentioned both conditions in the newspaper industry generally and the unionization fight as reasons for the layoffs. A portion of the memo read:

"Here at the News-Press management has struggled with this national trend as well as with the onslaught of tactics used by the Teamsters Union which represents the newsroom unit of the paper. Between calling for subscribers to cancel the paper, which thousands did, and embroiling us in incessant litigation with unfounded charges, the News-Press has expended significant economic resources. Understand, we will never give up our defense of the right of the ownership of the paper to control the content of its newspaper."

The memo characterized what happened as a "company wide reorganization" It never mentioned the term "layoffs." It concluded:

"While we make no promises, if we continue to work as a cohesive team and matters stabilize, no additional layoffs need occur."

I'll have more details as they come in.

Update 2:20 pm.

Confirmed names of those laid off: (will be updated throughout afternoon as names come in.)

Tomasa Moran, accounting

Mimi Mork, circulation