Six newsroom employees at IndyStar take early retirements

Six longtime newsroom employees at The Indianapolis Star are departing the newspaper in early January after taking early-retirement buyout packages offered by parent company Gannett Co.

Accepting the voluntary buyout packages are editorial cartoonist Gary Varvel, reporters Mark Alesia and Will Higgins, and editors Greg Weaver, Tom Leyden and Leisa Richardson.

The six retirements are effective Jan. 2. It is unclear if any of the positions will be replaced. The IndyStar has a listed staff of about 80 people.

The buyout offers were offered by Gannett company-wide to certain employees and involved newsrooms across the country.

Indianapolis Star Executive Editor Ronnie Ramos told the staff about the retirements four days before Christmas, according to an email obtained by IBJ. Ramos did not immediately respond to IBJ’s request for comment.

“They have each had a remarkable career here and have made many, many contributions to IndyStar’s success,” Ramos said in the email. “It’s an understatement to say we will miss them. Join me in wishing them the best.”

Several of the employees posted the news themselves on Twitter and other social networks.

“I’ll walk out of The Star brimming with pride for the hard work done there,” Leyden, the Star’s digital editor, tweeted. “Over 37 years I have seen waves of young journalists lift up our daily report. I am confident in my colleagues as revenue woes and corporate misfires try to stand in their way.”

Greg Weaver, who supervises the Star’s Indiana Statehouse reporters, joked on Twitter that his exit from the Star was “perfectly timed to miss the start of another session of the Indiana General Assembly. Darn the luck.”

Investigative reporter Mark Alesia stated on Twitter that the early retirement package “was a good offer by Gannett.”

“I barely qualified for the buyout and I'm not even close to retiring,” Alesia tweeted, while also noting that he and his wife “can’t wait for the next chapter!”

Employees eligible for the buyouts were notified Oct. 25, when the program was announced by Gannett President and CEO Bob Dickey.

In a message to Gannett staff, Dickey said the early-retirement program would be eligible to certain long-term Gannett employees who were 55 or older and had at least 15 years of service with the company as of Dec. 31.

“We are taking this step because we expect the [early-retirement offer] to provide the company with additional financial flexibility as we continue to align our business with changing customer needs,” Dickey’s note said.

Dickey noted that previous early-retirement offers by Gannett had been “well-received by our employees as a benefit for those who want to retire or potentially transition to a next career—and from time to time, some employees have expressed interest in having the company offer another early-retirement offering.”

“As in the past, compensation is based on a sliding scale related to the number of years of service,” according to Dickey.

Other IndyStar newsroom staffers said they miss their departing colleagues.

Crime reporter Ryan Martin called Dec. 21 “one of those truly bittersweet days” after hearing the news.

“Some long, storied careers at The Star will be ending Jan. 2,” Martin tweeted.

Employees at Gannett’s other Indiana newspapers also took the offer.

At the Lafayette Journal & Courier, News Director Carol Bangert and photographer John Terhune accepted a buyout. Bangert has a long history at the paper. Her father, Bob Kriebel, was an editor and columnist for the newspaper from 1957 through 2011. Bangert’s husband, Dave, is a columnist at the paper.

At the Muncie Star-Press, investigative reporter Keith Roysdon is taking a buyout.

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