Three Fired From Post-Dispatch Newsroom; Three Others Take Buyouts

Categories: Media
Editor's note: The post below states that the layoffs Wednesday were the first forced terminations the newsroom has had since the Lee acquisition. We got that information from the St. Louis Newspaper Guild both in interviews with the guild yesterday and last month when we wrote about Lee's desire to shrink the newsroom.  We've been unable to reach the guild today (Thursday) for clarification.

An archive search of Daily RFT shows that we have indeed written about other firings in the newsroom, so as readers have pointed out in the comment section, Twitter and emails, perhaps yesterday's post was incorrect. Or perhaps yesterday's terminations was the first time guild members have been fired. We're attempting to get answers. In the meantime, the original post from yesterday follows:

St. Louis Post-Dispatch.jpg
Somehow this image of the Post-Dispatch seems to work the best for this post.
Lee Enterprises laid off two researchers and an editor from the Post-Dispatch newsroom today. The firings are the first time the newsroom has suffered layoffs since the Iowa-based Lee acquired the paper in 2005. 

Last month Lee warned that it might have to fire as many as ten newsroom employees in order to cut costs at the paper.

Shannon Duffy, business representative for the St. Louis Newspaper Guild, tells Daily RFT today that in addition to today's firings, three longtime newsroom employees also agreed to take buyouts. They are sports reporter Bill Coats (with 30-plus years experience); page designer Arne Thorbjornson (24 years) and IT professional Lew Schucart (31 years).

"It's hard to believe that sacrificing these hard-working people who spent such a long part of their adult lives working for the benefit of the Post-Dispatch is going to cause the slightest ripple at Lee corporate," says Duffy. "But unfortunately Lee borrowed an awful lot of money, and now they're choking on it."

The company assumed hundred of million of dollars in debt in acquiring the Post-Dispatch, and that debt now threatens to bankrupt the company.

Duffy says that Lee found other cost savings for the newsroom in renegotiating its contract with wire services. Additionally the company has two reporter positions currently open that it will not fill. Last year Lee announced it would fire several newsroom staffers but reneged when several senior employees agreed to take buyouts. The newsroom now has about 135 guild members. The total number of employees at the paper has been cut nearly in half over the past seven years though layoffs, buyouts and attrition.

P.S. Oh and we also misspelled the name Thorbjornson in the original post. We had it with a "P" instead of a "T". Sorry about that.
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17 comments
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MoDoDo
MoDoDo

Maybe Peterson could get a job mowing Peter Raven's lawn. 

Guest
Guest

Ummm...... maybe if they printed the truth instead of "the truth according to the jews".

Anonymous
Anonymous

As someone who has been laid off before, I don't appreciate your use of the word 'firing' for 'laid off'. To me, when someone is fired, it is because they have done something wrong that necessitates their leaving. These people, with 30 years of service, didn't do anything wrong except devote their lives to a company that doesn't care about them.

Robin Gray
Robin Gray

And yet the "Life Sherpa" still has a job comparing White Castle to Jack in the box.....

KITTY
KITTY

Hey Lee Enterprises: If you want to save money and axe employees, then the two best candidates for the chopping block are Debbie Peterson and Gail Pennington. They are fighting for first place as the most boring and meaningless wanna be journalists in St. Louis. Imagine them getting paid for the claptrap they write. Better yet, hook them up with the RFT since Editor & Publisher Chad Garrison is looking to fill two more full time positions devoted exclusively to write and report the neverending saga of Peter Kinder.

Guest
Guest

Peterson is very popular with liberals wanting to catch up on the antics of the sodomites and "who's fucking who in the butt" these days.

ColinSTL:
ColinSTL:

And I still say there's two words for you Kitty in your obsession with the RFT and Chad Garrison:  Stalking and harassment. 

KITTY
KITTY

No Colin, the two word are "warm and fuzzy."

horace greeley
horace greeley

This is not the first time the newsroom has had layoffs since Lee took over. They started laying off people in 2008 and have had several rounds since then.

Postie
Postie

Yup, many other layoffs in recent years, of Guild and non-Guild Post-Dispatch newsroom employees. Your lede is incorrect, Chad.

Postie
Postie

Also, Chad, you spelled Arne's last name wrong.

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