UPDATE: Commercial Appeal Changes, 17 Laid Off


A memo circulated to Commercial Appeal employees Sunday, Sept 21 announced that the newspaper would undergo major physical restructuring. Today 17 layoffs were announced including 13 employees covered by the Memphis Newspaper Guild.

The breakdown of layoffs according to a Guild memo:

Seven [layoffs] in editorial. (Two photographers, four reporters, one copy editor)
Four in customer service.
Two in transportation. 

The changes being instituted to save money on newspaper production costs include the publication of only one daily edition, 
moving daily business reporting to the paper's A section, and creating a Sunday-only standalone business edition. Daily editorial copy will be reduced to a single page between Mondays and Saturdays. The CA will discontinue its DeSoto, Mississippi, edition, which had previously been identified as a successful suburban edition during a period when the CA, which once reached deep into surrounding counties, was heavily courting suburban readers and advertising. Also, the M section will only appear 3 days a week. 

In 2010, following a protracted seven-year contract negotiation, and the loss of many jobs, the AFL-CIO-affiliated union accepted the CA's final contract offer, choosing to preserve an "evergreen clause," that maintains the terms of an existing contract until it's replaced by a new contract,  but eliminating language that protected employees against layoffs made to facilitate department outsourcing. There have been major shakeups in management, and additional layoffs over the past four years, although the bad news for employees seemed to slow  considerably. After several new editorial hires, including photographers, it even began to look like things might be turning around. The recent round of layoffs was announced following on the heels of the announcement that E.W. Scripps Co., the parent company of the Commercial Appeal would abandon its entire newspaper division in order to focus on the development of television and radio properties. The announcement comes just before   the Newspaper Guild and CA management to reconvene for further contract negotiations.

Affected Guild-covered employees include longtime editor and reporter Lela Garlington, Marlin Morgan, Karen Focht, Bryan Brasher, William DeShazer, and Jeff MacAdory.

The Commercial Appeal will become part of  the Milwaukee-based Journal Media Group.

In its own reporting on the situation the newspaper quoted CA publisher George Cogswell saying the changes were being made in response to soft revenues. 

The format changes will begin this week. 

The following email was circulated by Wayne Risher, President of the Memphis Newspaper Guild. 

Job Cuts Announced
September 23, 2014
From the Memphis Newspaper Guild
Once again we're in the sad position of announcing job cuts. Management told us this morning (Tuesday) that a total of 13 people are losing jobs within our bargaining unit at The Commercial Appeal. Here's the breakdown.
Seven in editorial. (Two photographers, four reporters, one copy editor)
Four in customer service.
Two in transportation.
In addition to those 13, four people outside the Guild bargaining unit lost jobs. That usually means managers, but we're not sure.
The company began telling the people affected this morning. We sent representatives to most of those meetings and we've requested additional information to ensure that those who lost jobs are treated according to our contract.
CA attorney Warren Funk and HR manager Eunice Johnson said this action had to do with longstanding financial issues. "It's just the way the business is going. It hasn't been good. Hasn't been good for a while," Funk said.
They said it didn't have to do with the upcoming deal with Journal Media Group. We asked if the officials with the new company were consulted about this action. They said they didn't know. We asked them to find out.
That's what we have right now.
We'll plan to have at least one meeting to help those who lost jobs connect to resources and employment leads - look for an announcement in the next few days. And please start looking for job leads - we'll organize a way to get those to people who need them.
Wayne Risher

Mediaverse-Memphis, a blog following print, digital, and broadcast media in Memphis, obtained and published a memo from CA Editor-in-chief Louis Graham. 

There are major changes coming this week in booking of the print edition and, consequently, in staffing.

The print product is being reorganized to reduce space and save on newsprint and production costs. You've heard some of these changes, others will be new. Beginning with Thursday’s edition:
—We will publish a single edition. DeSoto Appeal is discontinued. So is B section zoning for the Shelby suburbs.
—The full Business report moves inside Section A. We will continue to have a standalone section on Sundays.
—We will publish a single Editorial page, also inside A, Monday-Saturday.
—M will publish on Mondays, Tuesdays (Food) and Sundays only. On the other days, comics will front the Classified section and include puzzles and the TV grid.
—Sports moves to Section C.

As a result of these changes:
— Peggy McKenzie will head a newly created Suburban department responsible for the coverage of the burbs, including DeSoto.
—Responsibility for the three M sections a week shifts to Chris Herrington.
—All line editors have or will be relocated to the center of the newsroom to work on a new multi-department desk co-op coordinated by John Stamm. More explanation to come.
—Kim Coleman will supervise copy and design.

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