Indianapolis Star hit with new round of job cuts

July 31, 2013

The fifth round of layoffs in five years at The Indianapolis Star has claimed 11 members of the Indianapolis Newspaper Guild, although the newspaper’s depleted reporting staff escaped the latest cuts at the local unit of Virginia-based Gannett Co. Inc.

The cuts involved three copy editors, three clerks, two custodians, a part-time photographer, a part-time graphic artist and an assistant calendar editor.

In addition, two managers not part of the Guild—News Administrative Editor D. Todd Moore and Breaking News Editor Kevin Morgan—were let go. Moore had been with The Star since joining as an intern in 1980; Morgan joined the newspaper in 1984.

The Star’s editor, Jeff Taylor, declined to comment.

The layoffs were announced Monday. Although no reporters were involved in the latest cuts, "it still hurts," said Robert King, a Star reporter and president of the Indianapolis Newspaper Guild.

Newspaper management told the Guild that the cuts were part of an ongoing “resizing” aimed at reducing costs while minimizing effects on the news product, King said in a note to members published on the Guild's website.

In 2011, the Star laid off 62 employees, including more than 15 percent of its newsroom staff. That left 136 newsroom employees, down from 230 in 2007.

This week’s layoffs “once again revive an old fear that has subsided a bit in the two years since the last layoffs—that the knife of force reductions can be brought out with little notice,” King told Guild members.

He said the cuts also underscore how the Star “continues to be a less hospitable place for its most veteran staffers,” with seven of nine newsroom staffers cut Monday with more than 30 years experience.

“This follows issues that other veteran employees have faced in recent months, from the worst evaluations of their careers to demotions. This is a serious matter we will look further into,” King wrote.

The Star's sports department recently underwent a major overhaul, which included the reassignment of some of the paper's most-tenured beat writers.

The Star’s former society columnist, Susan Guyett, sued the paper in 2010, alleging age discrimination led to her job loss. The paper later brought back her column, written by a staffer under age 40, according to the suit. The paper eventually reached a settlement with Guyett.

In 2011, the Guild launched a “Save Our Star” campaign to build public awareness of local journalism and of Gannett’s efforts to downsize the local operation. The effort coincided with the Guild's contract talks.

In early 2012, the Guild reached a two-year contract with the Star that brought pay raises of 2 to 4 percent. The union was not successful in stopping management from outsourcing a number of page-designer jobs to a Gannett operation in Louisville.

Gannett bought the Star in 2000 from Central Newspapers Inc., which had been controlled by the Pulliam family, in a $2.66 billion deal that included several other newspapers and media outlets.

Gannett is selling the newspaper's longtime headquarters at 307 N. Pennsylvania St. and is negotiating to relocate to the former Nordstrom store at Circle Centre mall.

King credited the paper’s publisher, Karen Crotchfelt, and editor, Taylor, for adding back reporters over the last year in areas such as investigations, features and higher education. 

But he also told Guild members the latest layoffs seemed to have been directed by the paper’s local leaders rather than by Gannett’s corporate staff.

“Here’s a solution,” King told members. “Hire some people who can sell advertising on the Internet. Get some folks there who can think creatively enough to generate some new damned revenue streams.”


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