'Hartford Courant' Offers Newsroom Buyouts

By: Joe Strupp The Harford (Conn.) Courant has launched a buyout offer today, which seeks to eliminate 10 of the paper's 252 newsroom positions, according to an internal memo obtained by E&P.

The memo, posted below, states that 81 news staffers will be eligible for the offer, but only 10 are being sought. Editor/Vice President Cliff Teutsch, who sent the memo, noted that layoffs could occur if enough buyouts are not taken, and there could be assignment changes.

"This round of cuts is not pleasant, but we will get through it," Teutsch wrote. "We need to stay focused on making the paper and Web sites as engaging as possible. And we need to find ways to work as smartly as possible with fewer people."

The entire memo follows:

From: Teutsch, Clifford
Sent: Thursday, May 24, 2007 10:40 AM
To: Courant News Staff
Subject: Voluntary buyout

To: News Staff
Fr: Cliff

We are offering a voluntary buyout to 81 News employees, with the intent of reducing the staff by 10 positions, from 252 to 242. This action is one of many being taken this spring in News and other departments to cut expenses and bring in new revenue, as we work to offset advertising shortfalls. A separate note from Steve addresses these efforts from a companywide perspective.

Buyout documents are being given to eligible employees today. We are offering the buyout to people in specific job groups, and, in some cases, only those with certain length of service. The buyout package will consist of two weeks' pay for every year of service, (capped at 52 weeks pay), plus the continuation of certain benefits; and job hunting assistance for those who may be looking for other employment.

Those receiving the offer are: copy editors with more than 14 years of service; metro and state reporters II and III with more than six years of service, excluding columnists and investigative team members; state and metro origination editors in grades 12 and 14 and bureau chiefs, excluding Washington; and sports reporters with more than 18 years of service. In each case we have established a cap. For example, the cap for copy editors is three. That means we are obligated to allow three copy editors to take the buyout. If more than the capped number apply, we reserve the right to exceed the cap and allow more people to leave. Within each group, buyout applicants will be accepted in order of length of service, with the most senior person accepted first. I mentioned the copy editor cap is three. The other caps are: metro and state reporters, a total of five; sports reporters, one; metro and state origination editors, one.

People will have until June 14 to decide whether to apply for the buyout. If not enough people accept the offer, it is likely we will have some layoffs. If we need to do layoffs, they may come from any group, not just those who were offered the voluntary buyout. Once we see how many people are taking the buyout, we may decide to move staff from one group to another. Transfers may come from any group, whether or not that group was offered the buyout. Please don't assume that because the cap is high for State and Metro that they will ultimately drop that much, or that because another group has a small cap, or is not part of the buyout, that it will not shrink.

This announcement follows announcements of buyouts at other newspapers, so I don't know if it relieves anxiety about what would happen here, or adds anxiety, or both. Some of that probably depends on your individual situation and outlook.

If you would like to talk, I will be available today and tomorrow. Please either drop by or call Candy or me for an appointment. On Tuesday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., I'll be available in the newsroom for discussion.

This round of cuts is not pleasant, but we will get through it. We need to stay focused on making the paper and websites as engaging as possible. And we need to find ways to work as smartly as possible with fewer people. For example, we have asked our copy desk chiefs to discuss whether further cooperation among desks will help us deal with the loss of several copy editors.

If you have an idea for a quick, easy improvement in content or process, make yourself heard, talk to the right people, and take action. This responsibility rests on all of us. In the months ahead, News, The Courant and Tribune will be looking for bigger, transformative ideas to strengthen our business. That's on all of us too.

You have repeatedly risen to the challenge, and I know you will now.


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