‘Orlando Sentinel’ Quietly Cutting Newsroom Staff

By: Joe Strupp

The Orlando Sentinel is quietly cutting newsroom staffers this week, according to several sources at the paper. They maintain that plans are in the works for up to one-fifth of the newsroom’s jobs to be eliminated by the end of the month.

As many as 20 of the paper’s approximately 250-person news staff were informed Wednesday that they would leave the paper, including several who chose to depart with a severance package. Other cuts are expected to be done before the end of July.

“There are going to be 50 people who lose their jobs, 45 to 50, that is 20% of the newsroom,” said one veteran editor who is among those who chose to leave. “Half were told yesterday, and another half will be next week.”

Another staffer who said he chose to take the severance agreement confirmed the move, stating “roughly 20% of the newsroom is leaving by the end of the month, and they are offering a pretty generous severance package. They asked for some volunteers, and I decided to take it.”

Editor Charlotte Hall declined to comment on the situation, referring inquiries to Lisa Jacobsen, a human resources and communications consultant, who told E&P no cutbacks are planned “at this time.”

She also stated that the paper does not discuss employment status, adding that there is “a lot of misinformation out there. Nothing is happening, and nothing is planned.”

Still, several staffers confirmed that the cutback is occurring, and most of them are surprised at the paper’s lack of transparency. “I am one of the departing,” said a third staffer. “They are seen as ‘involuntary separations.’ They are doing it spaced out, but the plan is to have them done by July 31.”

Some sources speculated that the low-key approach is being taken in order not to hurt the recent redesign launch that has drawn both positive and negative attention. The Sentinel is also one of several Tribune Co. papers going through cutbacks, which have also included the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times.

The job cut news has also spread to several blogs by former Sentinel staffers, including this one.

That site reported this week, “The axe is officially swinging at the Orlando Sentinel. Unfortunately, this is only the first of two [known] swipes it will take.

“In a few staff meetings, Editor Charlotte Hall acknowledged that around 20 percent of the 250 employee newsroom will be scrapped in the near future,” the site alleges. “But anyone not in one of those particular meetings at those particular times will likely never get anything close to an admission from her or any of the Sentinel management. Yet, Charlotte Hall is also the president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors- a group that is steadfast about making sure nobody (government, businesses, journalists) hides anything.”

At another blog, former Sentinel staffer Maria Padilla writes: “The hyper loco folks at the Orlando Sentinel are also becoming hyper-paranoids. I have heard from many of you in these last few days. One of the most disturbing emails talked about the level of deceit practiced by the top editors in not putting out a list of who’s going or gone. Not wanting to put things down on paper because they don’t want this news to appear in print, online, anytime. Not wanting to report to the public in its very own pages the extent of the bloodshed, its effect on the paper, staff and general mayhem.”

Then there is former Sentinel reporter Nancy Imperiale, who blogs here.

In a post this week, she writes: “Names of more people leaving the Sentinel are being disbursed. A big long list was leaked yesterday. I?ll print it if I hear popular blog demand, but really, why feed their stupid paranoid system by leaking out a few names here and there? By ‘their,’ I of course mean the stupid people still in charge at the Sentinel.”

Jacobsen said she was aware of the blog items, but declined to comment, calling them mere “misinformation.”

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