Editor Clifton Calls ‘Plain Dealer’ Buyouts ‘Not A Big Deal’

By: Joe Strupp

Editor Doug Clifton of The Plain Dealer in Cleveland called today’s announcement that 17% of his newsroom had taken a buyout “not a big deal,” noting that the paper’s staff had actually been above the average for its circulation size.

“We were a little on the heavy side,” Clifton told E&P. “Better staffed than papers of similar size. This puts us much closer to the norm.”

Clifton’s comments came just hours after the Plain Dealer revealed that about 65 of the paper’s 372 newsroom employees accepted the buyout offer, which was first announced two months ago.

The editor, who has been at the helm for seven years, said he would be losing his lone Cincinnati reporter, who took the buyout and will not be replaced. “We can now send somebody there when we need to,” he said of the Western Ohio region.

But Clifton did stress that the loss of any longtime newsroom people could hurt. “It is never a good thing when you lose institutional memory and people of long tenure,” he said. “It gives us some opportunity to do some reorganization.”

The buyout provides those who are at least 50 years old and have 20 years of service at the paper with 2 1/2 years’ of salary and health-care benefits. Others who do not fit those requirements, but chose to leave voluntarily receive two weeks’ pay and health care for every year of service.

The buyout offer was made to all of the Plain Dealer’s 1,450 workers, the paper reported. But the paper would not reveal how many of the nearly 1,100 non-newsroom employees in circulation, advertising and accounting took the offer. The departures are being spread out, between this week and Dec. 31.

In reporting the results, the paper stated only that the buyouts are “intended to help Ohio’s largest newspaper reduce expenses,” adding that “like most of the nation’s 1,400 daily newspapers, The Plain Dealer has been dealing for several years with declining advertising revenue and circulation.”

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