Category Archives: Layoffs/Buyouts

The latest round of layoffs at the Star

These new layoffs – the fifth round of layoffs conducted at the Star in the past five years – didn’t cut deeply into the heart of the news operation as have some of the past cuts, didn’t remove layers of coverage as some have before. By and large, it may go unnoticed by readers.

But the layoffs Monday of 11 people still hurts and it once again revives an old fear that had subsided a bit in the two years since the last layoffs – that the knife of force reductions can be brought out with little notice.

Monday’s casualty list – 3 copy editors, 3 clerks, 2 custodians, a part-time photographer, a part-time graphic artist and an assistant calendar editor – were removed from the front lines of the newsgathering process by a layer or more.

Yet there are some things still troubling about Monday’s effort at – how did management characterize it – this “right sizing.”

First, the Star’s copy desk is getting thinner, the protective layers between publication and error prevention just got leaner. This started with deep cuts to the desk two years ago and shows little sign of being turned back. Plans that were in the works to retool the desk had to be scrapped as these new cuts were made.

Second, this right sizing effort seemed to save money for the company by reducing people with some of the smallest salaries – two custodians, three clerks, a calendar editor and a part-time photo editor. In the world of setting priorities for a leaner business, these jobs may seem less important than they once were. But we find it interesting that, while two management positions were cut, people at the bottom continue to be expendable when corners of management that seem superfluous – and where salaries are more robust – still remain intact.

Third, the Star continues to be a less than hospitable place for its most veteran staffers. We’re still gathering data but seven of the nine newsroom staffers let go Monday had more than 30 years experience. This follows issues that other veteran employees have faced in recent months, from the worst evaluations of their careers to demotions. This is a serious matter we will look further into.

Finally, what is it about Summer at the Star? We’ve had layoffs here in August 2008, July 2009, June 2011 and now July 2013. Most often, the layoffs have been corporate ordered reductions that have come at the end of bad revenue figures in the second quarter, as if executives start to worry their year-end bonuses are in jeopardy without a little cost cutting. We know the industry and its ad revenues have been shrinking, but it’s getting to where you want to hold on to your vacation until the summer layoff season passes.

In this instance, this surgical strike seems solely directed by Star Media publisher Karen Crotchfelt, who along with Editor Jeff Taylor, say it reflects our priority of having more boots on the ground. Both deserve credit in the past year for adding back reporters — namely for investigations, business, higher education, breaking news and features. But after they’ve been trying to tell the community we’re evolving, and that our business is transforming instead of dying, moves like Monday’s muddle the message, try as they might to see that the message goes unnoticed. It especially muddles the message for the employees who remain behind, and who are weary of being told by management that “we’re still bullish about our business.” We’ve heard that message through five layoffs now. It’s beginning to wear a little thin.

Here’s a solution: Hire some people who can sell advertising on the internet. Get some folks there who can think creatively enough to generate some new damned revenue streams. And make sure the next person who runs advertising doesn’t show up at the corporate meetings and perform the same happy song and dance routine without some results. That’s wearing a little thin, too.



Filed under General, Layoffs/Buyouts

Misinformation about your health care coverage

The Star’s personnel office acknowledged Monday that there has been a major error in the information it has been giving laid-off employees about their post-employment health care coverage.

Since the June 21 layoffs, The Star has been telling workers that their health insurance would last only until June 30. From there, workers would need to find new coverage. Some did just that, searching out and purchasing new plans. Others who saw their benefits were ending abruptly, went out and spent hundreds of dollars from their flexible spending accounts, thinking that money was about to disappear.

Now, The Star’s personnel office says the company’s health care coverage didn’t end abruptly on June 30. Instead, it says the coverage will last as long as an employee’s severance payments. A worker with 12 weeks severance, for instance, would also have health coverage for 12 weeks.

Needless to say this is a striking change from the information provided at the time of the layoffs.

Olivia LaMelle, the Star’s human resources director, accepted responsibility for the mistake. She also asked that former workers contact her if they spent money on new health plans or incurred other problems based on the bad information. She said The Star would attempt to remedy the situation.

The Guild urges you to take her up on her offer, and to let us know how well she does. You might even want to copy us in on emails you send in to notify The Star about your experience.

LaMelle said she would be issuing a letter to laid-off workers within the next two days regarding the mistake. Aside from detailing the problem, the letter should also contain The Star’s latest calculation of the severance benefits you should expect to receive. This new calculation, she said, would take into account provisions from previous contracts up until 2002 that allowed for 2 weeks severance for each year of work.

The Guild understands that this whole episode has unnecessarily added stress and strain — and for some, financial expense — that wasn’t needed during an already stressful situation.

We hope the acknowledgement of this error and a pledge to remedy its damage will help ease one of the burdens of this bad situation. Please let us know how it goes.


Filed under Layoffs/Buyouts

A Fresh Look at a New Career

To help our friends who recently lost their jobs, the Guild is proud to sponsor a daylong career counseling session on Thursday, July 28 at Butler University that will offer a great mixture of job searching skills, networking tools and self-assessments.

The program is free to the Star employees who were laid off last month and includes lunch. It will run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Butler University Center for Faith and Vocation, 4615 Sunset Ave., directly across from Clowes Memorial Hall.

The session promises to look and feel a bit different from the July 2 program at IUPUI, which offered encouragement from former journalists who have made a life beyond the Star.

The Butler event will offer practical tips on resume writing and job searching in the digital age and networking in areas beyond public relations. It will allow you to take the Strong Interest Inventory, an assessment tool that suggests careers that may best suit your talents and interests. It will be led by Gary Beaulieu, director of the university’s career center.

Partnering with Gary in the event is Butler’s Center for Faith and Vocation, which is led by former Star reporter Judith Cebula, who along with former Guild president Marc Allan, pulled together this event.

As such, the Center for Faith and Vocation will offer some sound helpful guidance on both the practical and spiritual aspects of life and work beyond The Indianapolis Star, including build a life of purpose, meaning and contribution.

Please RSVP to so we can save you a seat.

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Filed under Layoffs/Buyouts

First paycheck since layoffs

For the former Star employees who were laid off on June 21, today was your first post-layoff paycheck with the first installment of the severance money due to you. We were also told by The Star’s HR office that you would receive pay today for your unused vacation and personal leave.

Well, we’ve already heard from a handful of people that their checks weren’t what was expected.

We made a trip down to HR this afternoon and the person with most of the answers — Olivia LaMelle — was out of the office. She’s due back Monday.

Please let us know if something is missing from your check. We’ll collect the information and press your case when someone returns. Of course, your first step should be to contact HR directly. But if that doesn’t work, let us know.


President Bobby King, 509-9026


Filed under Layoffs/Buyouts

Super – Or Not

Click image for a larger view

Click image for a larger view

Are you feeling super?

I hope so.

Personally, I’ve been feeling a little less than super. I’ve had a few days of late that have been downright lousy. Like the day when 28 of my newsroom colleagues – 25 of them my friends in the newspaper guild – were told to go home. Their services were no longer necessary. They were laid off.

I definitely didn’t feel super that day. In fact, from the sound of the way our publisher talked on Black Tuesday, the paper didn’t seem so super. Our national advertising was in the crapper. Our revenues were lagging. Our business, as it stood on June 21, wasn’t sustainable. Thus, we marked the first day of summer at The Indianapolis Star, by pulling out the ax.

Amazing how much that ax accomplished. In less than two weeks, the Star’s troubles appear now to be behind us. We are, as the full page ad in Sunday’s paper said, “super.”

Our newspaper sales are growing, the ad said. And “we are feeling super!” Note the exclamation point. That means it must be really super.

It’s nice to know that the newspaper is super again. And in less than two short weeks after we were in such an un-super situation. That’s an amazing turnaround. Our newspaper sales must have grown quickly after those people were “let go.”

Unless, of course, the Star was growing while those people were still here.

Could it be that we were super all along? Everybody says we’re still making a profit. Now we learn that our readership is growing. Of course, our executives at Gannett have been getting big bonuses. And our company earned a $500-million profit last year.

All that sounds pretty super.

I wonder, then, how our friends who were laid off feel. Some of them don’t know how they’re going to pay the light bill, eat, keep a roof over their head, pay for their doctor visits and keep gas in the car as they look for work. That sounds less than super.

The one good thing out of all this is that, now that the Star is super again, the rest of us who are still working here should be in line for a super pay raise!

Note the exclamation point. That means really super.

– Bobby King, President Indianapolis News Guild

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Filed under Layoffs/Buyouts