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Indianapolis Star lays off 62 in cost-saving purge

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The Indianapolis Star on Tuesday laid off 62 employees including more than 15 percent of its newsroom staff in the latest round of cost-cutting by Gannett Co. Inc., the newspaper's parent company.

Among those laid off in Indianapolis were 26 newsroom employees including 12 copy editors and eight reporters, mostly those covering suburban news. The Star also eliminated 19 open positions, said Robert King, the newspaper's religion and philanthropy reporter and president of the Indianapolis Newspaper Guild.

"The Indianapolis Star, I’ve been told repeatedly, continues to make money," King wrote in an e-mail. "Yet Gannett, and its corporate bosses in Virginia, seem to view workers not as assets but as liabilities on a balance sheet."

McLean, Va.-based Gannett, which owns 82 newspapers as well as TV stations, earned $90 million on revenue of $1.25 billion in the first quarter. That compared with a profit of $117 million on $1.3 billion in revenue in the same period a year earlier.

The local layoffs were part of a nationwide purge of about 700 employees in the newspaper chain's U.S. Community Publishing division, a move the company blamed on a sluggish economic recovery. The job cuts amount to 2 percent of Gannett's total work force, according to an internal memo from Bob Dickey, the chain's head of community newspapers.

"National advertising remains soft and with many of our local advertisers reducing their overall budgets, we need to take further steps to align our costs with the current revenue trends," Dickey wrote in the memo. "Each of our local media organizations faces its own market conditions, challenges and opportunities. Therefore, it has been up to each local publisher to determine his or her unique course of action."

Indianapolis Star Publisher Karen Crotchfelt, who took the helm in December, did not return a phone message from IBJ.

The Dickey memo said Gannett would institute furloughs for executives in its community publishing business who earn above an unspecified salary "in an effort to reduce the number of people being let go."

For Gannett, it is the fourth large round of layoffs in three years. In 2009, the company cut 1,400 jobs in its community publishing division.

King, the local guild president, said those let go were "hard-working folks who care about the communities they served." 

The Star's newsroom has 136 employees after the latest round of layoffs, down from 230 in 2007.

"Going forward, we have good people here who will do as they have always done—work harder under more difficult circumstances," King wrote. "But it's hard to imagine how the quality of The Indianapolis Star and indystar.com will remain the same, and how readers will be served by this."

Gannett earned $541 million on $5.4 billion in revenue last year, and CEO Craig Dubow took home salary and benefits worth $9.4 million, double his take in 2009.

Part of Dubow's compensation was a $1.75 million bonus partly tied to achievements in "restructuring costs and creating efficiencies."

Gannett shares rose almost 3 percent Tuesday, to $14.15.

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  • Flaw in the system
    So, the CEO doubled his pay in two years by firing employees? A whopping $9.4 million? I think we have a flaw in the system. Couldn't we convince him to scrimp by on say, $4.4 million? That would save $5 million which pays for 100 people at $50K a year.
  • 25 cent Price increase for TV guide
    They now charge extra for the TV guide in the indpls Sunday star. If you want the TV guide in the Sunday Star it will cost you extra 25 cents. Wonder how long it will be before they charge extra for the sports page or front page. This sucks and we canceled ours service.
  • Continues to decline.
    I dropped the delivery of the Indianapolis Star a few years ago for two reasons...1) The sarcastist and negative opinions expressed too often by a particular sports columnists (I understand the value of a columinist. To attract readers. In my opinion, this columnists does just the opposite. I purposely did not mention his name as I am sure he is a very good person and I do not wish any ill will towards others)....2) The continued decline in the quality of this paper.

    These two exact sentiments are shared by many others. I know because I have heard others tell me they have done the same.

    The Indianapolis Star is a joke compared to other major city papers! It's sad to explain to out of town family and friends when they buy our local paper and I have to explain The Star is indeed the main paper which is offered to all of Central Indiana and is not a local coumminity paper.

  • More to come
    This really is a result of the shift from a paid-for, hardcopy newspaper to the online version. We want the newspaper to be online AND not to cost anything. Unfortunately the end result is the revenue is not enough for the shareholders and expenses must be reduced.
  • My TV Guide = the DVR schedule
    'Nuff said.

    I read the Star for 3 things: Sunday inserts, Sunday special reports, Sunday columnists. I see a trend there.

    I pay little attention to it throughout the week, except maybe their web site. Most of the other information/services they provide I can find elsewhere. For example, why would I pay for a classified ad when I can get more eyeballs on it from Craigslist?
  • CEOs are evil
    they do what it takes to make themselves get the bonus, the company will fail and then they glide away to the next company.
  • More on The Real Story
    I couldn't agree more with the writer of The Real Story. I was a newspaper reporter in those days for The Star, completing 20 years at a newsroom that did dream big, sometimes fell short, but always tried hard and consistently reflected the city it served. The first round of editors referred to in The Real Story post created a newsroom where fear reigned. Though at the top, those three lacked leadership qualities and managerial abilities. They had no understanding of the paper's culture and little comprehension of the workings of the city. When they finally departed, a vulnerable, tentative newsroom was their legacy -- ripe for the corporate bullying of Gannett. Gannett brought in named a succession of incompetent and personally flawed publishers and editors -- all of whom contributed to the destruction of the news product even as they lied to themselves, calling it success.

    I physically left The Star in 2002, but my heart remained.

    It makes me sick to see what has happened to my paper since 2000. I don't know how the remaining Pulliam family regards what has happened, I do know that unlike their father and grandfather, flawed as they may have been, the present generation had absolutely no regard for its people or place in Indianapolis.

  • Less content
    The content of this newspaper just keeps diminishing. Particularily bothersome are the new free-form ads that run--it seems the actual news articles are being chopped up to accomodate these type of ads. The business section is a joke, a city this size should have more than one business page. The real kicker was last Saturday, when the main front page story was an article about the trend of weaving bird feathers through hair. This definitely did not belong on the front page of a major newspaper, I don't care if it was a slow news day.
  • Excellent Points
    Agree with your commentary on what informs a community compared to local journalism.
  • Star layoffs
    I suppose they still employ Daffy Dan Carpenter.
    I nearly quit the paper but we still read the sports.
  • simple greed
    Great question about the Pulliam heirs and others associated with INI who in 2001 made a mint on the sale to Gannett. They may not have been able to predict the exact nature of the media crisis that would come in the new decade, but everyone can spell and smell greed,
  • Old men
    My Dad just rolled over in his grave...
  • The slow erosion of public engagement
    For whatever you thought of Gene Pulliam, he held his paper as much in trust for the good of Indianapolis as for profit. The Star is a shadow of its former self. The News is no more. Joe Gelarden and Howard Smulevitz are distant memories. Indianapolis residents cannot depend upon the Star to monitor government, to tell us what is happening at Eli Lilly, to dissect emerging transportational, social, racial, educational, or criminal justice trends. We are collectively more and more ignorant of the knowledge we need to act as a community. Politicians will run for office and will will know little of them except what we see in their ads- mostly run on electronic media. Eli Lilly is preeminent in its field, but it might as well be located in Butte for all we are told about it. The Star reporters concentrate on the flashy personality or sports stories, because the information to write those stories is spoon-fed to the reporters. Reporters don't dig for stories, as the do for the New York Times or the Chicago Tribune. The root cause of this demise, of course, is that the Star has not developed a revenue model to compete with the electronic media including the internet. Maybe the Kindle and its kin could be drafted as part of a subscription-based service. What is certain is that we cannot be a community without a common frame of reference. Without that frame of reference, we each become social isolates, no more connected to each other even within close geographic proximity than we are to people a continent away. Without community, there is no democracy.
  • Sad development
    I stopped home delivery of the paper several years ago. And judging from the few newspapers I see on driveways in the neighborhood in the mornings a lot of other people have too.
    But still this is a sad development. A city of this size should have a strong daily paper and it's hard to imagine how that can happen with more and more cuts like this.
  • The real story
    Back in 2000, which folks in The Star newsroom called the "Prague Spring," we had 291 reporters and editors. That was in the day when Tim Franklin, Nancy Winkley and Chuck Clark ran the place, just before Gannett swooped in and started the long, slow death spiral. Those three worked our a**es off and we kinda didn't like em then, but oh for those good old days when we had big plans and big ideas -- B.G. (Before Gannett).
    • Indystar
      a terrible paper which I stopped subscribing to a few years ago due to poor editing no interesting stories that mean anything
    • Staff Losses
      They could have saved lots of money by dropping Tully. He can be hired by the Manual High Fine Arts Dept and write about their successes because he is clueless when he gets into politics commentary.

      As an aside, I take nothing bad from Tully's school reporting but where is he on HOW we can get to the problem and the lowest grades and make good and intelligent decisions of our young kids. Going to concerts is great but give that stuff to the social listing.
    • Quality of the Star
      The Indianapolis Star is an absolute joke for a city & metro region as big as Indianapolis & it's suburbs. I vowed to never subscribe again the day when the lead story on the front page was a Colts loss with a huge photo of Peyton Manning with a frown & inside was a small article on the landslide re-election of Chavez in Venezuela. You know the country with largest amount of oil in the western hemisphere and a leader with strong anti US actions. Oh wait you would not know that if you rely on the Star for anything other than FLUFF. I am so glad I know what Peyton Manning looks like when he frowns. How anyone subscribes or pays for this "newspaper" is beyond me.
    • The decline of the Star
      Just this past Sunday we were told that there would be an additional $.25 charge for the TV guide in the Sunday paper. This was about all that was worth reading in the paper. It appears to me that it is time to reconsider the delivery of that paper and take the savings and get a subscription to the TV Guide.
    • Yes, that was mean
      Hey Beverly - Frumious is just one of those who doesn't like the Star having a younger crowd (Erika Smith) writing something few people in Indiana would touch. I found some of her articles very well written and a nice break from some of the more typical Star articles. Of course, nobody is forcing you to read anything by anybody.
    • Mean
      To Frumious - A lot of good journalists lost jobs today. That's a very hateful thing to say.
    • Great News!!
      Gee, I sure am glad that the "Recession" ended in 2009, and that the economy is getting so much better!
      • got out in time
        The Pulliam's seem to have sold at the right time. Those papers now aren't worth nearly as much as they were then. Even if the Pulliams had maintained control, there would have been cut backs, albeit maybe not as drastic. The obvious truth is that the once very powerful newspapers are now a mere shadow of what they once were. People no longer depend soley on them as a solid source for news and information. Of course they've driven people away too by no longer providing the kind of product they did 20 years ago.
      • Please...
        If there is a merciful God in heaven, let Erika Smith be among the layoffs.
        • Continued decline
          The quality of the reporting has consistently gone down and it's been depressing. I have wanted to cancel my delivery but didn't because I was hoping it would support local journalism. So much for that....
        • No unbreakable trust money can't buy
          "what in the world was the Pulliam family thinking?"

          $$$$

          Have you noticed the periodic "Where Have I Been?" travel feature in IndySunday would more accurately be entitled "Where Did Myrta Pulliam Go Last Month?"
        • 2 billion big ones
          That's what the Pulliam family was thinking. Right in line with what the money-grubbers at Gannett think. Journalists always were taught to follow the money. Well, this is where it leads.
        • What WAS the Pulliam family thinking???
          One former Star employee says he thinks about only one third of the Start's former newsroom staff is still employed. The one thought keeps circulating through my head is: what in the world was the Pulliam family thinking when they sold the Star and the Arizona Republic to Gannett? Did they seriously think that this mega-corporation would care in the least about editorial quality? All they had to do was look a couple of hours south to the Courier-Journal to see what happened to it. One day a Pulitzer Prize-winning news organization. Post-Gannett acquisition: in essence, a minimalist re-circulated content farm...junk.

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