Many New & Observer journalists believe Monday will be Layoff Day, when a still-unknown number of them will have to leave the paper and — considering the woes across the whole industry — perhaps the profession itself.
It’s certain that a staff reduction, on top of the recent round of buyouts, is coming, but the precise moment is known to only a few. I sent an email message yesterday to N&O publisher Orage Quarles asking if Monday was the day, and got this in return:
Dan, wow, hope you don’t take your sources to the bank. Stay tuned.
That answer, of course, lives somewhere in the twilight world between denial and confirmation. Could the job cuts be as soon as today? Seems unlikely, considering that the current trend in management is to avoid Friday layoffs. Besides, when you google the words “monday” and “layoffs” together, it’s clear that the start of the week is a choice time for collecting badges and escorting people out of the building. So we’ll see.
Another interesting wrinkle presented itself this week when an N&O news staffer mentioned to me that in conversations with employees from other departments at the paper, it became clear that layoffs were not anticipated elsewhere in the company. That reminded me of something McClatchy CEO Gary Pruitt said to stock analysts two months ago during a routine meeting. Pruitt, when asked to detail his plans for reducing costs, instead explained where he didn’t expect to make any cuts:
Well, what we want to do is we want to make sure that we maintain our ability to generate revenue and so we want to make sure that the revenue engine is fully revved and fully staffed and we are working as hard as we can to improve revenue performance, particularly in the online side but also in print and direct marketing.
When you set aside the news employees from the N&O’s total staff, the people left over are overwhelmingly engaged in “revenue engine” jobs — which is to say, those in display and classified advertising, and (to a lesser degree) circulation. So what’s left to cut? Mostly, the newsroom, which of course is all cost and no revenue.
As the N&O’s publisher says: Stay tuned.