Indianapolis Star parent Gannett offering another round of buyouts

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In its latest move to save money in a tumultous time in the newspaper industry, Gannett Co. is offering buyout packages to employees at hundreds of newspapers around the country, including The Indianapolis Star and eight other Indiana papers.

The newspaper giant on Monday sent notices to its newspapers laying out the terms of the buyout, and explaining the process.

The buyouts could help Gannett raise money to help pay off huge debts from its $1.4 billion combination with GateHouse Media. But it could also shrink newsrooms, perhaps sharply, following numerous rounds of buyouts, layoffs and furloughs in recent years.

“As we continue to transform our business for the future, we see changes in our business and how we work,” the company said in a memo obtained by IBJ. “This program allows employees to consider their own journey, and provides flexibility for those who may wish to transition to a new role or phase of their life.”

Katrice Hardy, executive editor of the Star, declined to comment to IBJ when asked about the size of the newsroom, and whether the buyouts might affect the paper’s ability to report news.

As of August 2019, the Star newsroom had about 70 employees, down from 285 in 2000, when it was bought by Gannett. Most newspaper companies around the U.S. have cut their workforces in response to sharp declines in advertising revenue. During its last buyout two years ago, the Star lost six veteran journalists.

Under the latest buyouts, employees could walk away with one week of severance pay for each year of service, with a minimum of three weeks and maximum of 28 weeks, according to recent emails sent by the Indianapolis Newspaper Guild officers at the Star to newsroom members. The buyout also includes a $3,000 transition bonus and 30 days of outplacement services. Employees currently enrolled in medical, dental and vision would retain their benefits through the end of the year.

It’s unclear how many buyouts Gannett will accept in this new round or how much money the company is trying to save. Those details are not spelled out in the memo, nor in any recent government filing. The buyouts are voluntary, but the company said there is no guarantee that if enough workers don’t apply for the voluntary severance agreement (also known as VSO), it might be forced to take other steps.

“While it is hoped that the VSO will achieve the desired cost savings goals, in the event that a sufficient number of employees do not end up ultimately participating in the VSO, an involuntary reduction in force may occur,” the confidential memo said.

Unlike previous Gannett buyouts, which required workers to meet certain criteria for age and years of service, this buyout is available to nearly all full-time Gannett workers, with no restrictions on age or service. Eligible employees only have to work at least 30 hours a week. Temporary workers, interns, and employees on a leave of absence, other than military leave, are ineligible.

The Star’s newsroom is unionized, and has a contract that requires the company to bargain before offering buyouts to members. The Indianapolis Newspaper Guild’s board agreed to take part.

“The Indianapolis Newspaper Guild has agreed to participate in the company’s buyout offer, which includes more than a typical severance package through our contract,” said Emily Hopkins, Guild president.

Earlier this year, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Gannett instituted a system of rotating weeklong furloughs for most employees, together with temporary pay reductions and suspension of its contributions to 401(k) plans, according to Poynter.org, a newspaper think tank based in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Gannett owns more than 250 daily newspapers and hundreds more weekly and community newspapers in 47 states, making it the largest newspaper company in the country.

In addition to the Star, Gannett owns the Evansville Courier & Press, Lafayette Journal & Courier, Muncie Star Press, Richmond Palladium-Item, South Bend Tribune, Bloomington Herald-Times, Martinsville Reporter and Mooresville Decatur-Times.

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22 thoughts on “Indianapolis Star parent Gannett offering another round of buyouts

  1. The Gannett system of news ownership and publication is undoubtedly the worst offering of news reporting available anywhere. The Star, once a good paper is now an embarrassment to our community. Once we had great journalists and reporters … now we have reprints and wire services. Local ownership is the only answer.

    1. Agreed, local ownership is the answer. But Gannett had deep pockets and will use all resources necessary to stifle competition and protect its property. It’s doubtful Gannett would be open to selling Star to local buyers.

  2. Wow; down from 285 newsroom employees to 70. Well, they did it to themselves…’can’t help but wonder what will happen to Indianapolis Business Journal if they continue their leftist trending. At least for the time being, IBJ seems to be a good source of local news.

    1. Leftist trending at the IBJ? Seriously?

      Maybe look in the mirror as opposed to blaming every media organization that doesn’t tell you what you want to hear. Consume lots of news sources, including ones you know you might not agree with.

    2. The IBJ is gone – my subscription runs out at the end of the month and I will not miss the reprints from the Washington Post and AP. Since the IBJ is now run by the notorious Dr. Box, Greg Morris cancelled all live events for the rest of 2020. The IBJ will struggle to survive in 2021.

    3. If somebody calls IBJ Leftist, then they must be so far right they can’t even judge where the middle might be.

    4. Or Dan they are so left that IBJ looks conservative, it’s not. it should be a-political based on its name.

  3. How so incredibly sad. A local newspaper is a bedrock to a community and all we’ve got essentially is a handful of playground sand. There is no local news in the Star except for sports. I keep the Star mainly for the comics, obits and the hope to see something about local government which rarely shows up on the pages. There is no reporting on crime . If you were to read the Star for what was going on in Indy, you wouldn’t know that homicides are an almost daily occurrence. ( And what what about the poor victims, do they not have a name or a story behind the crime? We never hear the stories) You wouldn’t know that there are neighborhoods other than Carmel and their Carmichael hotel -which takes an entire Living section on a Sunday edition. You wouldn’t know there are school board elections this year and who the candidates are. You would hardly know that there were protests and/or riots this early summer downtown and that businesses and their employees were left to struggle. Our town needs a quality daily newspaper. The IBJ is an excellent publication but it is a weekly. I subscribe to the Wall Street Journal to keep up with national and world news.To think we had Star reporters writing a Pulitizer quality piece ( abuse of gymnasts, USA Gymnastics, etc…) within the past ten years.

    1. If you actually read the Star on a daily basis, you would have seen reports on all of those stories you say go unreported. I do, however, miss what the Star used to be when it was a more robust operation.

    2. When I first read this comment, there was a story on homicides on the front page of Indy Star, tagged with public safety.

    3. Yes, I read the paper on a daily basis. And yes, there are stories that tell that a homicide has occurred but buried on page A10 written in six paragraphs- but where is the investigative reporting? There was mention of IPS school board nominees but no discussion- what about the townships? I’m not saying there is nothing but like said ” the Star used to be a more robust operation” and with that there was real news that we all could use .

  4. Inara, thank you for the compliment, but IBJ is far more than a weekly. Yes, we are weekly in print, but we produce a wealth of new content online every day.

    1. I do thank IBJ for having lots to offer on a daily basis with the weekly print. Perhaps in time it will grow even more.

  5. Pay attention, Joe B. Last week, IBJ’s Forefront ran three editorials against Trump and only one for him. Don’t tell me that’s not a leftist lean. DUH!

    1. Maybe it was hard to find a somebody with a decent reputation to speak publicly in favor of Trump?

    2. LOL. Three editorials against Trump is far from “a leftist lean”, unless a pro-democracy/anti-dictator stance is now somehow “leftist”.

    3. What Dan said. At the point where a number of notable longtime Republicans have come out and said they’re voting for Biden because they feel Trump is a threat to the American democratic system … maybe recognize that the Republican Party has shifted significantly to the right, and the previous middle feels “leftist” to you.

      Or you could just read Feltman, who is actually in the ownership group of the paper. Here’s what he wrote back on March 5th:

      “If Trump and Pence can bring calm to a rattled electorate and contain the spread of the virus in the U.S., they will have shown strong leadership and likely will be rewarded in November. On the other hand, if the virus spreads, the economy sputters and the government’s response appears inept, the virus might play a role in returning a Democrat to the White House.”

    4. Just for accuracy’s sake, IBJ only publishes one editorial a week. The pieces in Forefront are columns, which represent the personal opinions of the columnists. We do try to keep a balanced roster of columnists on the political spectrum, but we don’t control their individual viewpoints from week to week.

  6. I only read the Star for the comics. Every once in a while they do a decent story and then they beat it to death ei… Gymnastics sex scandal, and now maybe police dogs. But even the police dogs story is now a collaborative effort.

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