Layoffs were quite common through the years, as companies trimmed anything and everything they could. Readership would likely be shocked if they actually saw how few people put together their daily or weekly newspapers.
It was quite common for critical positions to be cut and remaining employees expected to shoulder the entire workloads of those eliminated. By the time I left the business, I’d estimate I was doing the work of four entirely different positions—and that’s not unusual. My few remaining colleagues were as well.
In my experience, a common theme in the newspaper industry is that the higher ups—the owners, the publishers—are untouchable. When the staff takes mandatory furloughs or pay cuts or wage freezes, the untouchables continue their $200,000-plus annual salaries.
The publisher at a paper I once worked at had a lovely Lexus—perhaps a few years old–which he parked in a specific spot each day. He wore fine suits and ties and had an assistant who regularly picked up his dry cleaning and such. In fact, the company was in a tough spot once and during a manager’s meeting, someone suggested his assistant could be relieved of her duties because of financial difficulties. The publisher’s reply? “No, I need her. She’s so good at picking up lunch.” (She was kept on staff.)
During one severe round of layoffs, when a handful of employees were told they needed to clean their desks, his true character—or lack of it—shone.
It was a Friday when they were told about the company’s financial troubles and that they were no longer needed. After a weekend of wondering what was in store for the remaining employees and the company we worked for, we pulled into the parking lot Monday morning.
There, parked in the publisher’s spot, was a brand spanking new, sparkling and shiny Lexus.