E.W. Scripps Extends Buyout Packages to 2 Papers

By: E&P Staff

Two E.W. Scripps papers are extending voluntary buyouts to staffers. The publishers of The Commercial Appeal in Memphis, Tenn., and the Rocky Mountain News in Denver wrote staffers in separate memos today that they were looking for eligible employees to take similar buyout packages.

Employees who have completed 10 years of service with the company and will be 55 years of age as of April 2 are qualified to apply for a package that will include separation pay and a health care subsidy.

Both memos stressed — using the same wording — that the reduction in staff “is not a layoff, it is a voluntary separation plan. The option to accept or decline the offer is up to each eligible employee.”

Rocky Mountain News Editor and Publisher John Temple wrote in his memo the paper is looking for 20 volunteers based on seniority.

Joe Pepe, Commercial Appeal president and publisher, did not specify the number of volunteers the paper is seeking.

Pepe did, however, begin the memo with an explanation of how the Commercial Appeal had expanded its market footprint with customized editions and the addition of nine advertising zones. “While we have implemented many cost saving measures,” he wrote, “these steps have not been enough to stabilize our profitability.”

Temple pointed to the challenging newspaper environment and added the reductions come during a time when the Rocky Mountain News is already undergoing a plan to restructure the newsroom. “I have always believed the online project, scheduled to be completed by Sept. 1, would require us to rethink how we do our work,” he wrote. “I believe we can continue to put out a strong newspaper and Web site with our new staff size, but we’ll have to do it differently.”

Parent company Scripps is hitting some hurdles — especially its newspaper division. Earlier this year, Scripps executives told a group of analysts and investors they had considered spinning off its newspaper division or selling some newspaper assets. Management has since said it has no plans to exit the newspaper business.

The division remains under pressure though. In March , the company revised its Q1 forecast warning that newspaper revenue is expected to decline 6% to 8% versus an original projection of 5% to 7%.

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