USA Today Reports More Bad News For Employees
USA Today Publisher Dave Hunke was the bearer of more bad news when he sent a February 11th memo to his more than 1,000 employees, detailing how they need to take an unpaid leave of absence sometime in the next six months. The memo follows on the heels of a round of pink slips that went out to five percent of the staff in December.
The memo read in part, "All employees will be furloughed for one full week...during the time period of Sunday, February 28 through Saturday, July 3, 2010. To be clear, a furlough means no one will be permitted to work while on furlough and no one will be exempt, except for business necessity. That means when you are on furlough, there is no work, no office phone calls, no voice mail, no e-mail and no PDA checking."
The Gannett Blog Details "The Memo"
An excerpt from the memo was made public when it was posted on the Gannett Blog, the brainchild of former Gannett writer and editor Jim Hopkins, who spent 20 years working in four different newsrooms, USA Today among them. Hopkins took a buyout in 2007 and is unaffiliated with the company, but his blog is used as a sounding board for employees. Forbes.com has this to say about the blog: "Drawing kudos for its crowd-sourcing, Gannett Blog used a community of current and exiled company employees to break stories, dish gossip and publish leaks."
Pay Increases Are Frozen For Another 90 Days
Additionally, Hunke's memo reported that USA Today will continue its holding pattern on pay increases, which have been frozen since February 1, 2009, for at least another 90 days, until the organization can "evaluate business conditions."
USA Today Is Hurting
It's been a tough couple of years for Gannett, and for the newspaper industry in general. More than 120 newspapers nationwide have shuttered, while more than 25,000 newspaper workers have seen their jobs disappear. In addition, newsstand sales have declined by roughly 30%, and circulation drops have averaged 14%. Since 2007, Gannett itself has laid off some 10,000 employees, has cut delivery of papers such as the Detroit Free Press to three days per week, and has converted other daily papers, like The Tuscon Citizen to strictly online publications.
USA Today has seen a significant decrease in readership over the past few years. It was recently surpassed by The Wall Street Journal as the most read newspaper. To make matters worse, the Gannett Blog reports that USA Today's paid advertising pages fell by 10.5% this past quarter, a sign that things aren't yet turning a corner for the struggling paper.
Pay Raises Will Depend On The Economy
USA Today noted in the memo that instituting pay raises for employees was a top priority for the paper, but how the economy and the paper's financial condition evolve over the next few months will dictate when it is possible to give employees the pay raises they have been waiting on for more than a year.