MediaNews Group Unpaid Furloughs Spreading

By: Joe Strupp

Unpaid one-week furloughs that have already struck MediaNews Group dailies in Californian may be heading east as one of the chain’s Pennsylvania papers confirms plans for the mandatory week off and another is bracing for a possible directive.

A source at the Lebanon (Pa.) Daily News revealed that an order issued Thursday has them preparing for unpaid furloughs.

The source supplied portions of a memo he said came from a top editor that said “full time hourly employees” may take an entire week off or take it one day at a time “but must take 5 days without pay sometime during Feb. 1 and March 31.”

Lebanon Publisher David L. Smith confirmed the furloughs for his staff, but declined comment on other MediaNews Group outlets. “It is basically an internal matter and we are doing what we need to do to weather the economy,” he told E&P. “I don?t have any more comment.”

Calls to MediaNews’ other dailies in Pennsylvania — the York Daily Record, the Evening Sun of Hanover and the Public Opinion of Chambersburg — found no information that furloughs had reached their newsrooms. But Public Opinion Editor Becky Bennett said she was bracing for the possible move: “We are waiting for word on what they want us to do. We haven’t received any directive yet.”

Thom Fladung, editor of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, said, “We haven’t taken any steps toward that [furloughs], but that doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen here. MediaNews has always had a very strong practice of local properties deciding for themselves.”

Bennett said she would not be surprised if furloughs were ordered given the recent announcement that all nine MediaNews Group papers in the Bay Area News Group-East Bay outside San Francisco had been ordered to institute furloughs this past week. Several Southern California MediaNews papers, including the Los Angeles Daily News, also have announced they will institute the money-saving move.

Reached Thursday by E&P, MediaNews CEO William Dean Singleton declined comment.

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