Star slashes 20 newsroom positions

December 4, 2008
Indianapolis Star Publisher Michael Kane told staffers yesterday the equivalent of 52 full-time staffers are being laid off to shore up the company's bottom line.

Twenty full-time positions in the newspaper's editorial department were terminated, including Susan Guyett, who pens the Talk of our Town column; cultural writers Whitney Smith and Chris Lloyd; and Abe Aamidor, a 20-plus-year veteran features writer and head of the Indianapolis Newspaper Guild. Aamidor said he was one of four staffers who volunteered to be laid off.

Laid off employees will get one week of severance pay for each year they worked at the newspaper, with a minimum of two weeks' and maximum of 26 weeks' pay. Kane also announced that two Star-owned weekly newspapers, The Spotlight, on the city's south side, and The East Side Herald, will close.

Officers of the Indianapolis Newspaper Guild, which this month begins contract negotiations for about 225 editorial and building services employees, will meet next week to select a replacement for Aamidor. That replacement will serve until the end of this year. The union's membership then will elect a permanent replacement.

The union's contract with the Star's parent company, Gannett Co. Inc., expires Dec. 31. A clause allows Star employees to continue working under the current contract as long as negotiations are ongoing.

Aamidor, who will continue working at the Star through this week, said there was a noticeable upswing in employees' moods this morning.

"There was a pall over this place the last two days," Aamidor said. "There's almost cheery relief this morning on the part of the survivors. They're bubbly with relief."

Several Star staffers said the cheer might not last long, indicating more cuts could be coming. Rumors are flying that the Star will publish fewer features sections and fold the business section inside the Metro+State section. Staffers at yesterday's meeting said editor Dennis Ryerson said no decisions have been made.

Ryerson did not return telephone calls. Representatives for Kane referred questions to Gannett headquarters, which was not immediately available for comment.

For more, go to IBJ's arts and entertainment blog, Lou Harry's A&E.

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