CNHI Orders Second Round Of Furloughs

By: Joe Strupp

For the second time this year, Community Newspaper Holdings Inc. (CNHI) is requiring all staffers to take a five-day furlough.

The newspaper chain, with 88 dailies, 48 weeklies, and other niche publications, had ordered an initial round of five unpaid days off for the second quarter. It has been slowly announcing another such move for the third quarter.

Furloughs have become the spending-reduction plan of choice for many newspaper companies this year, with Gannett also ordering two rounds of unpaid days off so far in 2009. Other newspaper companies implementing them include MediaNews, Media General, Lee Enterprises and some Advance Publications papers.

CNHI corporate executives declined to respond to requests for comment, but other sources within the company have confirmed the second five-day requirement, which affects all employees. The latest furlough must be taken some time during July, August and September.

“It is difficult because by then we are knee-deep in vacations,” said Bob Grady, editor of The Press-Republican of Plattsburgh, N.Y. “We will get through it all right. People are giving us their lists of dates for the third quarter. It is tough because that is the preferred vacation season. It is also tough for people who are on the low pay scale.”

During the first round of furloughs, Grady said the impact had been minimal, but noticeable: “We have had to bring some people in at time-and-a-half to cover a furlough day. But not enough that it does not make sense economically.”

Editors and publishers at most CNHI papers contacted by E&P declined to comment.

But not all. Mike Casuscelli, publisher of The Record-Eagle in Traverse City, Mich., said having a second furlough so soon after the first has sparked more concern. “It begins to scare people a little bit,” he said. “There were question during the first furlough if that was the only one and it was then.”

But he adds, “it benefits everyone instead of having to cut bodies. I think our people are very understanding.”

The announcement of furloughs has apparently been spread out over the past few weeks. Casuscelli said his staff was told about the furloughs in early May and it was reported in his paper. But staffers at other CNHI locations said word went out to them just last week. Not every paper has made the news public.

“It is not something you want to stand up and shout from the mountain,” Casuscelli added.

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