‘Sun-Sentinel’ Cutting News Staff 20% — But Not Reporting It

By: Joe Strupp

Just days after The Orlando (Fla.) Sentinel admitted it was cutting 20% of news staff but not reporting it, The Sun-Sentinel of Fort Lauderdale, another Tribune paper, revealed it was reducing staff under a similar plan.

Sun-Sentinel Editor Earl Maucker told E&P Monday that his paper also plans to cut 20% of its news staff — now at 290 — by the end of July. He said the cuts are coming through a combination of voluntary and involuntary departures.

“A number of people have approached asking for consideration in the last three or four weeks,” Maucker said, noting he told staff in late June that severance packages were available for those who wanted to leave. “We intend to have it wrapped up by the end of July.”

Both the Sentinel and Sun-Sentinel are owned by Tribune Co., which has announced significant cuts at several of its dailies, including the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times.

Maucker said the severance package at his paper includes two weeks’ pay for each year of service, up to 52 weeks. Not everyone who offers to take the deal will receive it, he said, adding that staffers are being chosen based on which jobs can be eliminated.

“If anyone wanted to express interest in it, they could,” Maucker said. So far, between 15 and 20 staffers have offered to take the layoff, along with “fewer than 10” who have been laid off involuntarily.

By the end of July, at least 50 newsroom staffers are expected to lose their jobs, either by choice or forced layoff, Maucker said. “It is fluid,” he said of the final number.

Of concern to several staffers, however, has been the Sun-Sentinel’s lack of reporting on the cutbacks, with no stories appearing in the newspaper or on its Web site about the cuts. In most cases, newspapers have reported on their own cutbacks prior to the final reductions.

Maucker said he chose not to report on the changes until they are completed: “It serves nobody’s interest to put it out ahead of time. As I’ve found, it gets butchered in the media, [there is] misinformation.”

Sun-Sentinel Publisher Howard Greenberg could not be reached for comment Monday. Greenberg, who is also publisher of The Orlando Sentinel, confirmed Friday that that paper was cutting 20% of news staff, but also withholding reporting until the cuts are completed at the end of July.

“We are in the middle of the process, not everyone has been notified,” Greenberg told E&P Friday when asked why the Sentinel had not reported its cuts. “We chose to do it the way we did.”

Maucker said his decision to withhold coverage of the cuts until they were completed was not directed by Greenberg or any Tribune executives. “I have no other mandate other than my own to keep staff informed and I do that verbally,” he said. “When it is over and finalized we will do a story.”

Maucker added that the paper is also undergoing a redesign that will be completed within a month: “We have been working on it for a while; lots of things percolating here.” He said it is un-related to the Sentinel’s recent redesign.

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