Indianapolis Star mulls slashing 95 positions

The Indianapolis Star is set to lay off as many as 95 people, or about 10 percent of its work force. The move is part of an effort by its parent, Virginia-based Gannett Co. Inc., to shore up its bottom line amid a sagging economy and eroding readership and revenue caused by the rise of the Internet and other factors.

Star Vice president of Market Development John Kridelbaugh said in an interview that the layoffs likely will affect all departments.

When asked whether he feared newsroom cuts would diminish the product, Kridelbaugh said, “There’s a concern with lessening the manpower everywhere.”

About 215 of the Star’s 940 employees work in the news operation.

The Star eliminated 23 jobs in August, when Gannett sought to slice 3 percent of its work force across the company. Gannett publishes more than 80 dailies, including USA Today and 900 non-dailies.

Earlier this week, Bob Dickey, president of Gannett’s U.S. Community Publishing division, sent a memo to Gannett publishers and general managers stating that the company must shed 10 percent of its jobs in December to deal with the deepening fiscal crisis. Publishers were told to have job-cut plans ready for review by Nov. 14.

“Gannett’s revenues continue to be severely impacted by this downturn, and our local operations are suffering,” Dickey said in the memo. “While we are doing our best to reduce all non-staff-related expenses, I am sorry to report that we must do another round of layoffs across our divisions.”

All publishers will be responsible for developing their own local plan for job cuts, Dickey said. Dickey also encouraged his publishers to come up with ideas for ways to grow revenue.

Star Publisher Michael Kane said in a memo to his staff yesterday that he will work with department heads to determine the impact on the newspaper.

“This is very difficult news to share, but our economic outlook demands it,” Kane continued in the memo. “In the meantime, we are working on new strategies to help reverse the trends.”

Affected employees will be paid one week of salary for each year of service, with a cap of 26 weeks of severance pay, Gannett officials said.

Union officials representing some Star employees said a clause in their contract stipulates that many longtime employees are due more than 26 weeks of severance. Leaders of the union, the Indianapolis Newspaper Guild, have offered a proposal for voluntary buyouts, but Gannett officials have given little indication that they will heed that plan.

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