- Star staff rallied downtown in December 2011 to protest concerns about the direction of the company. (Photo by Rebecca Townsend)
Determined to squeeze every last nickel from the withering carcass of The Indianapolis Star, corporate owner Gannett Co. plans to ship most of its local page-design jobs out of town.
Up to 10 full-time page designers will be laid off in March when Gannett moves the work to its regional design hub in Louisville, Ky. Star management told the employees of the upcoming layoffs during a meeting on Tuesday. Similar positions have been eliminated at other Gannett-owned newspapers in the Midwest.
Gannett has laid off more than 100 Star employees since 2008, forced newsroom employees to take 10 percent paycuts and allowed additional positions to disappear through attrition.
Employees have expected the move for more than a year. The weakened Indianapolis Newspaper Guild fought against the upcoming layoffs during contract negotiations in 2011 and 2012, but was unable to halt the plans.
The Guild's website has not been updated since the announcement to the employees on Tuesday, but referenced the planned move in its last post announcing workers' new two-year contract in February.
"Despite making it a focal point of the Guild's 'Save the Star' campaign, the Guild's team found that outsourcing the page-design work was an area where The Star was unyielding," the post reads. "We made a strong case — in leafleting efforts, a street protest, a media campaign and at the bargaining table — that this could damage the local news product. But it became clear that this was an edict from Gannett, The Star's parent company, and that the quality of the product was a secondary consideration to saving money."
According to various social-media posts, the affected workers were encouraged to apply for jobs in Louisville, but many are reluctant to leave Indianapolis.After spending nearly a decade as a staff reporter, Robert Annis finally broke free of the shackles of gainful employment when The Star laid him off in 2011. He now freelances full time, specializing in cycling and travel journalism.
The Wall Street Journal's "MarketWatch" website today noted Gannett forecasts "upbeat earnings" for its fourth quarter as a result of paid online subscriptions and record revenue from political advertising. Shares are up 31 percent since January of this year.
Highlights from Gannett's most recent quarterly filing [3Q 2012] include the following:
- Earnings per diluted share, on a GAAP (generally accepted accounting principles) basis: $0.56 compared to $0.41 for the third quarter of 2011, including "$8 million in costs due to workforce restructuring ($5 million after-tax or $0.02 per share)."
- Year to date earnings: $1.35 in 2012 compared to $1.40 last year, including "$34 million in costs due to workforce restructuring ($20 million after-tax or $0.09 per share), non-cash facility consolidation charges of $14 million ($8 million after-tax or $0.04 per share), pension settlement charges totaling $8 million ($5 million after-tax or $0.02 per share) ... "
- These earnings "reflect a number of milestones the Company has been working toward ... . circulation revenue company-wide increased over the prior year for the first time since early 2007; and company-wide digital revenues climbed above 25 percent of total revenues."
Also of interest, the following items from the detailed comments on operating revenue:
"Operating revenues increased 3% to $1.31 billion for the third quarter of 2012, the largest increase since the fourth quarter of 2006. The improvement is due, in part, to record third quarter Broadcasting segment revenues, which were up 36% compared to last year, as well as increases in both Digital segment and Publishing circulation revenues. Publishing segment revenues declined 3% for the quarter and declined by 5% for the year-to-date periods, as secular change and the slow pace of the economic recovery resulted in softer advertising demands across most categories. Within Publishing segment revenue, circulation revenue increased by almost 6% in the third quarter, marking a change from the past trend and the first time circulation revenues increased since the first quarter of 2007. Circulation revenue for the Company's domestic local publishing business was 10% higher in the third quarter of 2012 with the impact of the continued roll out of the all access content subscription model driving the increase."