Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Hearst's San Antonio Express-News Eliminates 165 Positions

Near the Alamo, the San Antonio Express-News released 75 newsroom employees today. Hearst officials announced that including other departments, 165 positions will be eliminated. Here is editor Robert Rivard's memo to staff:

From: Rivard, Robert
Sent: Wednesday, February 25, 2009 10:44 AM
To: SAEN Editorial
Subject: We are canceling this morning's news meeting for obvious reasons.


By now you have read Tom Stephenson's message to all employees. Every division of the Express-News will be affected, including every department in the newsroom. Incremental staff and budget cuts, we are sorry to say, have proven inadequate amid changing social and market forces now compounded by this deepening recession.

It is not lost on us as journalists in this difficult moment that we have built an audience of readers, in print and online, that is larger and more diverse than at any time in our century and half of publishing. We have done that at the Express-News through a commitment to excellence and public service. Now we must find ways to maintain these high levels of journalistic distinction even as valued colleagues depart. It is an unfortunate but undeniable fact that declining advertising revenues are insufficient to support our operations at current levels. At the same time, more and more people have become accustomed to reading us at no cost on the Internet. As a result, we are reducing the newsroom staff by some 75 positions, counting layoffs and open positions we are eliminating.

As a first step to securing our future and continuing to serve the community, we are undergoing a fundamental and painful restructuring of the newsroom staff. We will have fewer departments and fewer managers, and yes, fewer of every class of journalist. After we reorganize and consolidate additional operations with the Houston Chronicle, we will then turn to finding new ways to create and present the journalism we know is vital to the city and the region. There is every indication the community we serve recognizes our importance and wants the Express-News to succeed.

The newsroom leadership team will begin now to meet with individuals whose jobs are being eliminated. Brett Thacker and I are working with these editors to carry out such notifications as swiftly and humanely as possible. No one is being asked to leave the Express-News today unless you so choose. March 20 will be the final day for those whose jobs are being cut, at which time they will then receive involuntary separation packages that include two weeks' pay for each year of service up to one year's pay, along with other benefits. Some production journalists involved in the consolidation project with the Houston Chronicle will be asked to stay on until that project is completed in the coming months. Those who do stay until the completion will receive their separation packages at that time.

We have worked to preserve the size and depth of our newsroom in every imaginable way these past months and years, but events beyond our control have overwhelmed those efforts. Newsrooms become like families, but companies in every industry reach a point where they face fundamental, sometimes harsh change in order to preserve their viability. We are at that point. Most of you read yesterday's news regarding the San Francisco Chronicle and recently became aware of pending staff cuts at the Houston Chronicle. Our intention is to get through these difficult days and work to remain an indispensible source of news and information through the recession and beyond.


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