Employees at the State Journal-Register this week received an offer from the paper’s owner that many, most likely, will want to refuse. Gatehouse Media, the paper’s corporate parent, has invited employees at all of the company’s properties in Illinois to resign their positions in exchange for severance packages. Employees who sign up to quit will get six days of pay for every year worked, with a maximum of 20 weeks of pay; workers with 40 years or more on the job can get 26 weeks of pay. GateHouse has been working hard on its business model, Paul Gaier, president and group publisher for Illinois, wrote in a Tuesday memo to employees.
“Although our efforts have been successful by a number of measures, additional adjustments are needed to properly align our costs with our operating revenues,” Gaier wrote. Employees must decide by Friday whether to take the deal.
Management will decide who gets to walk the plank. It’s too soon to invest in stocks of bakeries that specialize in retirement cakes. No SJ-R employees left the building after a similar offer was made a couple years back, so this might just be the GateHouse way to build morale. The company this summer also made buyout offers to employees at papers in New England and to employees of the Austin American-Statesman in Texas, which GateHouse recently acquired. On the other hand, the United Media Guild, the union that represents SJ-R newsroom employees, last year convinced shareholders of New Media Investment Group, GateHouse’s parent company, to pass a proposal recommending that the company’s board of directors be elected on an annual basis. The nonbinding recommendation came after the union reached out to shareholders, telling them that GateHouse’s penchant for slashing jobs was hurting the news product and ultimately, the company’s financial prospects. Now, this.