As we are still trying to pick up the pieces following Tuesday’s layoffs, I have a few tidbits of news for our friends and colleagues who were let go.
- First, your absence is already being felt. Your faces are already being missed. And your stories — of your exploits — are being told with a mix of fondness and loss. Those memories can’t be cut off.
- Second, the final list of people who were laid off was 25. As the carnage was beginning on Tuesday, we were told there would be 26. But we had never been able to account for more than 25. And a final official list we saw today shows that 25 was the actual number. I’m not sure what the explanation is for discrepancy. We’re printing the list below because some expressed a desire to know who among your friends was affected.
- Third, I’ve already given notice in person and in writing to the Star that some of our most experienced veterans should be receiving more than the typical maximum of 26 weeks of severance called for in the current contract. These include the handful of people who had more than 26 weeks of severance before the 2002 contract and whose accumulated time was “grandfathered” into the current contract. I received some verbal assurance that this would be honored. Please let me know if that doesn’t happen.
- Fourth, the official word is that your Star insurance covers you only through the end of June. I hope to have some information soon about Cobra options. Stay tuned here.
- Fifth, some of you have already been in the building to pick up your personal belongings. The company is allowing you the time you need to collect things your self and to log on to the network to save any files or emails. You’ll need to have a supervisor let you in the building. If you would rather not come back into the building send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll make arrangements for one of the guild officers to set aside your things until you can pick them up.
- Sixth, we’ve made a page and a half of information requests aiming to find out just what the hell the company was thinking when it came up with this list of people who were laid off. We’re asking for a written rationale, an accounting of where the affected folks fit in on seniority lists and other items. Their answers will be a factor in deciding whether we file any grievances in response to what’s happened.
- Seventh, I hope to get some clarity on issues relating to filing for unemployment.
- Eighth, some former Indy News Guild alums were greatly concerned by what happened Tuesday. So much so that they have contacted me about offering those who have been laid off — now or in the past — a handy workshop on career counseling, with tips on resumes, cover letters and job searches. Tentatively, we’re talking about holding it Saturday, July 9 on Butler’s campus. Stay tuned for details.
- Ninth, I know this may sound trivial in comparison to everything you’re dealing with, but the Guild is planning to hold its annual outing to an Indianapolis Indians game for dues paying Guild members and their families. We want you to be part of that with us, whether you were a dues payer or not. We’ll buy the tickets and provide some concession stand coupons. Stay tuned for details on the date and how to make the ticket requests.
Finally, I want to confess that I think I failed you.
I failed in not discerning earlier that this layoff was coming. I don’t have any illusions that I could have stopped it, but had I discerned things sooner, I could have given you at least some warning.
About a week ago I heard rumblings that something was up. I immediately inquired about it and was told there was a newsroom reorganization afoot. I asked if any people covered by the Guild were in danger of losing their jobs. I won’t go into details here, but I was left with the distinct impression that we were safe, and that the biggest impact would be on the non-Guild managers, who were going to be asked to apply for new roles. In retrospect, I should have pressed harder for clarity.
By Monday afternoon, the rumblings about layoffs were louder. I made some new inquiries and it became clear that something was coming. I had no idea exactly what. But it was something. I didn’t learn any specifics until Tuesday at 12:02 p.m. By then, the email was already going out to the newsroom and you were beginning to receive phone calls at home. All I can say is that I was caught flat footed, and stunned. I never imagined such a blow would come. Forgive my failure of imagination.
In the last couple of days I have learned that the Star’s management has been discussing this layoff list for several weeks. And given the 700 layoffs across Gannett nationwide, this cut was orchestrated in Virginia, details to be worked out locally.
I want you to know that in the moment I received this news I spoke directly and bluntly to Karen Crotchfelt about the devastating impact these cuts will have on the Star. I told her there’s no way we can maintain the same standard of quality with a layer of the copy desk removed. I told her how important our researchers/librarians are to building good stories. I told her that I didn’t see how a short reporting staff could make due with eight fewer people gathering news. She said the reorganization would help us manage the cuts and that within six months we will be a stronger product than before. I told her that was impossible and I didn’t see how she could say that with a straight face. I told her that too many people in the public already feel that our newspaper is too thin, and that we don’t provide enough local content, and that this was going to make things worse. I had a similar conversation later in the day with Dennis Ryerson. Unfortunately, the train had left the station.
So, I want to say I’m sorry for not picking up on the signals that were there. Knowing sooner might have helped better prepare our folks for the bad news.
I ask your forgiveness.
– Bobby King, President Indianapolis Newspaper Guild, CWA Local 34070
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