With an October 1 deadline looming, Editor & Publisher's Joe Strupp reports that the Star-Ledger is falling short of their goal to get 100 newsroom staffers to accept buyouts — something that could cause the Newhouse family to put the state's largest newspaper up for sale. An e-mail exchange between veteran reporter Ron Marsico and publisher George Arwady suggests that the Star-Ledger's buyout offer (one year's salary) is less than at other Newhouse newspapers across the country. (And Strupp's second story of the day, on the Star-Ledger's possible breakup with the Associated Press, is also a must-read.)
"At this time I have no update to give you on our buyouts thus far, except to tell you that the newsroom has a long way to go to reach the goal that Jim announced," Arwady wrote to Marsico on Sunday in an e-mail that E&P says was circulated throughout the paper. "As I've said repeatedly, people should make decisions about the buyout offer based on what's right for them."
More of the e-mail exchange between Marsico and Arwady, as reported by E&P:
"George: Has the Newhouse family explained to you why there appear to be significant differences between the buyout packages offered the staffs of The Star-Ledger, Oregonian and Plain Dealer?" Marsico wrote in an e-mail Aug. 26 to Arwady. "If so, I believe it would be helpful for the reasons to be explained to the Ledger's employees. Thanks. — Ron."
Arwady's response: "Thanks for asking. Advance is an unusual company. Each newspaper's situation is different because it has a different market, different history, different competition, different cost structures and different benefit situations. All large newspapers have been hurt significantly by the severe decline in revenue, but neither The Plain Dealer nor The Oregonian has been experiencing the severe losses that the Star-Ledger has over the last several years. Therefore, a higher buyout incentive could be justified in those newspapers than here.
"As you also may know, compensation levels here are unusually high. Therefore, a year's pay and bonus here is significantly more than a year's pay and bonus elsewhere. For what it's worth, neither Jim Willse nor I nor anyone else in management here had the slightest inkling that The Oregonian would offer buyouts at this time, nor that they were going to be structured differently than ours. The newspapers really are treated as separate companies."
Strupp also notes that today's Star-Ledger, including the sports section, carries no Associated Press content. There is speculation that the newspaper is protesting AP's new rates "
"Several sources at the paper said this was planned, either as a protest or a way to see if the daily can put out an issue without the world's largest newsgathering source, a possible prelude to dropping AP service to save money as the paper seeks cost-cutting options," Strupp wrote.