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Post-Dispatch to furlough employees, or cut pay

Post-Dispatch to furlough employees, or cut pay

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ST. LOUIS — The Post-Dispatch will furlough employees or cut pay in response to a drop in advertising revenue, as newspapers across the country trim costs amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Kevin Mowbray, president and CEO of Post-Dispatch parent company Lee Enterprises Inc., told employees on Tuesday that they would either be furloughed for two weeks in the third quarter or see their salaries cut by the equivalent — about 4% of annual pay.

Lee executives, he said, will take a 20% pay cut in the same quarter, which spans April through June.

Mowbray called the recent work at the Post-Dispatch, and other Lee papers, “outstanding,” complimenting reporters and editors for their “passion, hard work and dedication” over the past few weeks.

“No one foresaw the challenges this pandemic would bring but you have all reacted with incredible creativity and resiliency and have managed to deliver your best work under difficult circumstances,” Mowbray wrote in the email.

And while digital subscriptions have seen an “uptick,” Mowbray said, advertising revenue has been “dramatically impacted now and for the near future.

“To ensure our own sustainability, it’s important that we manage the economic impact to our company,” he continued. “The sacrifices we make now will minimize the long-term damage the pandemic could have on our business.”

Ian Caso, publisher of the Post-Dispatch, reiterated the impact on advertising:

“Like most businesses in our region, this unprecedented event has had a significant impact on our operations,” Caso said. “Many of our national and local business partners have temporarily suspended advertising, leading us to this difficult decision.”

Jeff Gordon, president of the United Media Guild’s local branch, which represents reporters and advertising reps, said the guild is still in negotiations regarding the furloughs, but sees them as preferable to layoffs, “which both sides wanted to avoid.”

Gordon said the national guild has had similar discussions with other companies, including media giant Gannett.

“The numbers we’ve heard about ad revenue loss are pretty staggering,” Gordon said of the industry.

Gordon also said that the guild is talking with newspaper executives more broadly about digital subscriber drives, federal relief and other initiatives.

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