Plain Dealer President and Editor George Rodrigue announced Friday the paper will reduce its newsroom staff by an additional 12 people within two weeks. The PD announced in December it would lay off 24 union members and five managers when a new centralized page production system takes effect in May.
In a statement, Rodrigue called both moves a “necessity.”
“The pending loss of reporters stems not from efficiency breakthroughs but from declining advertising revenue,” Rodrigue said. “Our print subscribers have been extraordinarily loyal, even as we have been forced to raise our rates. But there must be a limit to their generosity; we need to keep our expenses within the means of our readers.”
Rodrigue says local stories will still be assigned, written and edited locally.
“I want to thank all of our journalists for pouring their souls into a noble calling, and to acknowledge the heartbreak that accompanies this news,” Rodrigue said.
Earlier this week, the Local One Northeast Ohio Newspaper Guild asked the Plain Dealer to “hold off on looming layoffs for three weeks” while a subscription drive is conducted with the North Shore Federation of Labor. The proposal calls for saving one Guild journalist’s job for every 500 new subscriptions. The Guild says they have not heard a formal response from the publisher.
When news of the additional layoffs broke Friday, the Guild responded, saying they were “angry and distraught.”
“In December, when Plain Dealer President and Editor George Rodrigue announced plans to outsource the production work of our paper, he said the move would save money,” the Guild said in a statement. “He said it would allow us to focus on vital local reporting efforts. But with today’s decision it’s clear to us the cuts are meant to crush a union.
We are angry and distraught today to learn The Plain Dealer plans to lay off more of our members. We were told that 14 newsroom jobs would be eliminated. #localjournalismmatters #savethePD #KeepPDLocal pic.twitter.com/tsiiHhGKbd
— The PD News Guild (@PDNewsGuild) March 15, 2019
The Guild says the news operation has been cut 73 percent in seven years, with Friday’s announcement increasing the cut to 80 percent.
“I feel like the people that own our paper, they’re not here in Cleveland. They don’t see how much this means. They don’t know how much this work means to us,” said Plain Dealer reporter Rachel Dissell, the union’s vice chair. “I feel like if they really wanted to figure out what the next chapter was, that they could come here and work with us to figure out how to invest money in doing this work in a way that we could be sustainable.”
Dissell estimates the newsroom will be reduced to 30 guild members after the layoffs.
Rodrigue says readers have offered “valuable insights” for the future of the paper through letters, surveys and conversations, and he intends to share those plans soon.
“Our future lies in listening more closely to our readers and in using our substantial remaining resources to serve them better, as citizens, workers, and residents,” Rodrigue said. “We plan to become better partners for all who wish to make the most of our region’s great resources and to meet its many challenges.”