LEE Enterprises Slashes Staff While Boosting Executive Compensation

LEE Enterprises, which operates the local newspaper, Journal Times, recently made additional cuts to their  staff based in Montana:

Lee trims staff at Montana papers, including Billings Gazette

The Billings Gazette was among several Lee Enterprises-owned newspapers in Montana that recently went through a round a layoffs and buyouts. photo by Ed Kemmick/ Last Best News The Billings Gazette was among several Lee Enterprises-owned newspapers in Montana that recently went through a round a layoffs and buyouts. photo by Ed Kemmick/ Last Best News

Lee Enterprises recently implemented another round of staff cuts at its Montana newspapers, including the Billings Gazette, the largest newspaper in the state.

At the Gazette, it appears that at least seven people were laid off or agreed to take buyouts in recent weeks, including up to three people in the newsroom, reports Last Best News.

Several people still working there said it was almost impossible to say exactly how many employees were leaving because of the mixed methods of departure and because a few more employees, including two or three in the newsroom, apparently were still considering buyout offers.

Among those who accepted buyouts was Greg Rachac, who just two weeks earlier had been named Montana Sportswriter of the Year for the second time by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association.

On Jan. 24, Rachac announced his departure on Twitter, saying: “News: I have taken a voluntary buyout from The Gazette/Lee Enterprises after 17 years as a sportswriter. It’s the best decision for me. Been a great run. Lots of memories & proud moments. Now it’s time to find new ones. Thank you for reading along all these years. Best wishes!”

On Feb. 2, newsroom receptionist Charity Dewing posted on Facebook a photo of a cake, obviously part of her going-away party, and said: “They were my kind of people. I didn’t make a lot of money at the Gazette, but I made a lot of lifelong friends. I love you, all.”

The latest round of cuts came barely half a year after several employees were laid off by the Gazette last summer. The staff cuts also came in the wake of yet another hefty increase in the price of a home-delivered Gazette.

Last Best News has also learned that the Gazette is contemplating significant changes to its circulation policies, which could be put in place as early as this spring.

The proposal, reportedly, is to draw in the boundaries of its home-delivery system, no longer providing that service in Wyoming, and in Montana going no farther west than Columbus or farther east than Glendive. Some subscribers in outlying areas also would lose home delivery two days a week.

The move would be a further geographical reduction for a newspaper that once boasted of having the largest circulation area of any daily newspaper in the United States, in terms of papers delivered directly by carriers.

Decades ago, when the Gazette had bureau reporters and stringers in Bozeman, several Eastern Montana communities and Cody and Sheridan, Wyo., fleets of contract drivers made daily long-distance drives to haul bundles of papers to dozens of communities. From there, carriers delivered them to doorsteps in northern Wyoming and in Montana as far west as Bozeman, to the east into western North Dakota and to the north all the way to the Canadian border.

In Missoula, the company announced plans to bring the weekly Missoula Independent into the Missoulian’s downtown office. Lee Enterprises bought the Independent last spring.

The company also said it will reduce the number of days the Ravalli Republic in Hamilton publishes a newspaper, from five days to three, and will close two customer call centers in Indiana, eliminating 93 jobs.

The reductions come as Lee Enterprises reported quarterly earnings of $27.3 million though digital services – an increase of 3.2 percent. But Lee’s overall advertising revenue was down in the last quarter of 2017, according to a report by the Poynter Institute, which regularly reports on American journalism.

“Lee Enterprises had an advertising revenue loss of 9 percent in the last quarter of 2017, but was able to increase profits with cuts in people and paper and a favorable income tax adjustment,” Poynter reported.

At the Missoulian, the latest round of cuts included the newspaper’s advertising manager and two members of the newsroom, including sports copy editor Tom Kopacz and sports reporter Kyle Houghtaling.

Last Thursday, the Independent also reported that it would move in with the Missoulian at the paper’s office on Higgins Avenue and share a single advertising manager. According to the Indy, Gibson said the move would save a “substantial amount” of money, possibly sparing the weekly paper from its own job losses.

Over the weekend, the Ravalli Republic reported that it would cut the publication of its newspaper to three days a week, down from its current five. Gibson said reports in the Indy and Republic were accurate and declined to discuss them further.

The Montana Standard, a Lee-owned newspaper in Butte, also made staffing cuts recently. Among those let go were the paper’s longtime photographer, Walter Hinick, and managing editor Carmen Winslow. Both had been with the Standard for 43 years.

Last week, Lee Enterprises submitted a notification with the Indiana Department of Workforce Development stating that it would close two customer call centers in Indiana. The closures will take effect on March 30 and affect 93 employees, including customer service representatives.

According to one former call-center employee, the company is moving the jobs to Ohio and Mexico. However, that could not be confirmed.

Ed Kemmick of Last Best News contributed to this story. A shorter version of this article originally appeared on Missoula Current, an independent online newspaper, of which Martin Kidston is the founding editor.

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Meanwhile LEE Enterprise CEO Compensation increases, stock returns fall, revenues decrease, along with net income.

From Morningstar:

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The Queen of Davenport has abdicated to the King:

Lee Enterprises elects Junck executive chairman and Mowbray as CEO

Lee Enterprises Inc., publisher of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, said Mary E. Junck has been elected the company’s executive chairman and Kevin D. Mowbray has been elected president and chief executive.

Mowbray also was elected to the board of directors. The transition was initially reported in December 2015.

Junck, 68, previously was president and chief executive officer of Lee, and Mowbray, 54, served as executive vice president and chief operating officer. Mowbray served as publisher of the Post-Dispatch from 2006 to 2013.

Also re-elected to the board of directors were Junck and Herbert W. Moloney, 64. Moloney has been a member of the Lee board of directors since 2001.

Davenport, Iowa-based Lee owns 46 daily newspapers including the Post-Dispatch and has a joint interest in four others.

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No more Fake Junck! But the Playbook remains the same. LEE Enterprises needs to contact special needs WI Governor Scott Walker and secure the same deal as he gave to Foxconn and offered to Kimberley Clark. Wisconsin isn’t open for business – it’s on sale – and a fire sale at that – with special clearance deals offered daily.
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Foxconn incentives cost more than other state deals

MADISON — Luring a new Foxconn factory will cost Wisconsin more than eight times as much per job as other job-creation deals in the past year, according to a newspaper analysis.

The Taiwanese company is receiving more than $200,000 in state taxpayer money per job, according to media reports. Foxconn’s incentive package is more than three times as much per job as the next most costly deal.

“Around the country, you just generally don’t see offers this high,” said Tim Bartik, an independent economist who studies economic development. “It’s very, very high.”

Wisconsin is also waiving $150 million in sales tax for the company. The state will pay the company up to $2.85 billion in tax credits if it creates 13,000 jobs and invests $9 billion in the plant in Racine County.

Foxconn’s tax credits accounted for 96 percent of the credits the state awarded in 2017, though the company will only produce 44 percent of the jobs.

Foxconn could also receive lower electric rates, money for roads and worker training, and up to $764 million in incentives from Racine County and Mount Pleasant.

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Lee’s online operations: Driven by revenue, profit growth

While Lee Enterprises leaves most decisions about the Web sites to each local paper, a few things are mandated: There has to be a certain number of ads in the print editions that promote the Web site, and the Web sites have to be profitable.

Demanding profitability stems from a time when making money online was difficult, but the company is now deriving “substantial revenue” from its online operations, said Greg Schermer, Lee’s vice president of interactive media and general counsel.

Don Farber, new media director for Lee’s Waterloo (Iowa) Courier, said Lee is one of the best newspaper companies as far as its focus on the online side of the business. “The online revenue building and online audience building is part of Lee’s prayer card, or primary objectives,” Farber said. He said Lee’s overall goal is to be No. 1 in its markets as a news source with its newspaper and No. 2 with its online edition.

Madison.com, the Web site affiliated with Wisconsin State Journal and The Capital Times, is Lee’s largest online presence, excluding the Pulitzer acquisition.

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Hope JT Publisher Mark Lewis has his LEE Enterprise Prayer Card handy.

What happens when the Foxconn deal doesn’t deliver on those promised 13,000 + jobs at $50K = each?

 

 

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