The Contra Costa Times, which has been apart of Dean Singleton’s MediaNews Group since August, is not going to reveal how many of its employees have been laid off, Publisher John Armstrong (photo) said in a March 5 memo to employees. But he says that despite a downturn in advertising, the newspaper has a “shot” at maintaining its profit goals due to previous layoffs.

    Dear Colleagues: The announcement of job layoffs last week prompted a number of questions and comments from employees, which I appreciate. If this prompts additional questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.

    Is our company profitable?
    Yes. Due principally to advertising revenue shortfalls, we are falling far short of the profit goals we established for the joint Contra Costa/ANG operation. But with the job reductions and other cost cuts we’re implementing this month, we have a shot at maintaining the profit level attained in the previous fiscal year.

    What is the future of our business? Is the future secure enough for me to stick around?
    I am optimistic about the future of our business, despite the current challenges we face on the advertising and readership fronts. Local newspapers remain one of the most effective ways for advertisers to reach a large audience.

    We’ll cycle through the current slumps in real estate and automotive sales. We’ll grow our share of local retail advertising. We’ll get more targeted advertising dollars through our niche publications, such as Fronteras, and through such services as TargetSmart. With the expanded San Francisco Bay Area Buy, we’ll grow our national advertising volume.
    A key to our success is escalating the pace at which we convert into a true multi-media company, offering effective advertising solutions on three fronts: daily and weekly newspapers, digital sites and services and targeted publications.

    I don’t sell advertising or circulation subscriptions. What can I do to help?
    Everyone can play a role in our success. Quality journalism, efficient production, strong customer service and compelling content on the Internet all are critical components of our growth plan.

    How many positions were eliminated last week? What are the names of those who lost their jobs (we’d like to show our support)?

    We are not announcing the number of layoffs. I can say the number at any one location did not fall under the provisions of the Warn Act, a federal law which requires 60-day notice if layoffs reach 50 at any one plant or office.

    For privacy reasons, we are not announcing the names of the employees whose jobs were eliminated. However, those who are interested in showing support for them should have little difficulty determining who they are.

    What divisions were affected by the job eliminations?
    As I stated in my announcement, the job eliminations were widespread, affecting all divisions to varying degrees — Advertising/Marketing, Editorial, Circulation, Production and Administration/Finance/Human Resources.

    We preserved “feet on the street” –- those positions dedicated to selling advertising and gathering the news –- because sales growth and strong journalism can help lead us out of our current slump.

    Are more job cuts in the offing?
    I would like to be in a position to guarantee there will be no more job reductions, but I have to be realistic. There is at this time considerable uncertainty about our advertising revenue prospects. However, I can assure you there are no additional job reductions planned at this time. If we do find it necessary to further reduce our payroll, we first will attempt to accomplish reductions through attrition, not filling positions as employees leave the company in the natural course of doing business.
    John Armstrong

SF Press Club News

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