No Gain = Pain

The grim reaper visits the St. Paul Pioneer Press

If layoffs do come to St. Paul, the newspaper guild's contract dictates that employees with the least seniority would be the first to go. After the announcement on the depth of the cuts, 13 Pioneer Press editorial staffers wrote a letter to Sadowski, outlining their fears that the move might gut the newspaper's previous efforts at minority recruitment. "It is clear that many recent hires are people of color," the letter states. "Their loss would make further recruiting efforts even more difficult, would undermine the trust we are building with minority groups in the Twin Cities, and would strip our daily coverage of the unique insights, contacts and hard work of a talented group of people."

Sadowski points out that the company could simply lay people off, without trying to put together any buyout offers. Putting together packages that are attractive enough to avoid layoffs, he argues, will allow the company's commitment to diversity to emerge intact. (Though Sadowski won't comment on the scope of offers at the Pioneer Press, buyout proposals have been announced at other Knight Ridder papers. At the Miami Herald, staffers will get a minimum of one year's salary, and at the San Jose Mercury News, at least six months' worth.)

One way or another, by the end of this year, substantially fewer people will be putting out "Minnesota's First Newspaper," while the staff at the competition across the river will endure no such pruning. Executives with the parent of the Star Tribune, the Sacramento, California-based McClatchy Co., have made it clear that the company will not resort to layoffs even as the economy cools, advertising dollars drop off, and newsprint prices increase. (The Star Tribune has taken other steps toward austerity, including offering employees unpaid time away from work.)

The newspaper guild's Mike Sweeney sees the relentless attention to the bottom line as shortsighted: The corporate journalism that his colleagues feared in 1974 is now a cold, harsh reality. "I think it's damaging the credibility and quality of the newspaper. It's damaging the ability of the newspaper to attract people," says Sweeney.

"The Star Tribune has got to be just clapping their hands with glee," he adds. "When is enough enough?"

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