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Black, White, & Red All Over

The Commercial Appeal postpones job layoffs.

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Life is a little more stressful than usual for many employees at The Commercial Appeal.

The newspaper's management recently announced that it would lay off 23 Newspaper Guild-covered employees and three employees covered by the pressman's union effective March 12th. The employees being laid-off were supposed to be notified on March 2nd, but the notification date has since been pushed back to March 27th.

Originally, 18 of the employees being laid off were to come from the newspaper's editorial department. That has since changed with the voluntary retirement of business reporter David Flaum and the resignations of business reporter Cassandra Kimberly and Shelby County government reporter Alex Doniach. Flaum declined to comment on the situation.

News of more layoffs at the CA coincided with the shuttering of Scripps' Rocky Mountain News, a 150-year-old Pulitzer Prize-winning daily paper. Scripps also owns the CA.

"We understand that things are grim," said Mark Watson, president of the CA's Tri-Council, a coalition of the newspaper's three unions. Watson added that there's still been no discussion of reducing the number of days each week the CA publishes.

"That's been done in Detroit," he said, noting that in December the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit Morning News cut back to three days for full publication and home delivery. Both papers announced a shift to online-first reporting and continue to offer a smaller newsstand-only issue on days when there is no home delivery.

To cut costs, CA management reduced the size of the newspaper, laid off 9 percent of its workforce, and ceased home delivery to thousands of households in surrounding cities last year. 2009 began with management taking paycuts of up to 15 percent.

Last week it was announced that Tennesee's four largest newspapers — Nashville's Tennessean, the CA, the Chattanooga Times-Free Press, and the Knoxville News Sentinel — had agreed to share content. The decision will immediately impact sports and political coverage, though it's not clear whether this agreement will result in additional cuts or a redistribution of human resources at individual papers.

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