WIDESPREAD PANIC: 150 Newsroom Jobs To Be Axed; Inky/DN Rumormill In Overdrive; ‘People Are Shitting Bricks In Here’

After a brief lull in the suspense when all parties involved agreedpanic-attacks.gif to a 30-day contract extension, the tension in the newsrooms of the Daily News and The Inquirer has racheted back up to fever-pitch. “People are shitting bricks in here,” says a newsroom source who agreed to speak on condition of anonymity.”And nobody is saying anything. There’s been no word from the newsroom leadership about any of this, just a lot of rumors, speculation and panic…Almost all of our stars are under 40 and [with the seniority rule] this would just wipe out most of our best reporters. As one of my colleagues was saying, if that happens we might as well just become a weekly, too. And there will be plenty of job openings here because no serious journalist would work here.”…DEVELOPING

Update: Ferrick Urges Fellow Guild Members Not To Panic

To: Inquirer Guild Member
From: Tom Ferrick
Date: Nov. 2nd,


The good thing about getting the 30-day extension is that it gives
the unions and company extra time to reach agreement on their contracts.

The bad news about the 30-day extension is that it gives the companypanic-attacks.gif
lots of time to fear monger in a bid to divide and conquer.  I thought
they would wait until they had agreements with the crafts union to do
it, but I guess they couldn't resist the temptation to get a head start.

When I left yesterday, the rumor was 60-80 layoffs.  This morning,
working at home, I heard 100.  By the time I walked into the office, I
had gone to 150.  I'm afraid to leave my desk, lest the number escalate
to 200.

What you have to consider is that the company is at a strategic
disadvantage when it comes to its talks with the unions.  It does not
have the luxury of taking a long strike - perhaps not even a short
strike - because it does not have the deep pockets KR once had.  So,
what to do? If I were running the show, what I would do is wage a fear
campaign among vulnerable members to get them to bring pressure on the
Guild leadership to make any and all concessions to lessen the number of
layoffs.  I would induce panic and hope it spawns division.  (Sorry, my
years covering politics has left me a devious mind.)

I find these tactics reprehensible, but they are like negative
advertising.  People use negative ads because they work. Fear works.

We are in for more of the same over the next few weeks as the talks
continue. I wish it wasn't so, but it is going to get worse day by day.
I'm reminded of Hemingway's definition of courage -- grace under
pressure.  We're getting the pressure. Now, we need to show grace. I
think we can do it.

As to the reality of layoffs, the company is required to give the
Guild at least 15 days notice, plus negotiate over terms and conditions,
bumping rights, etc. It's a process that can take a month. The Guild has
not heard any word from the company. Keep in mind that except for a
handful of layoffs during the Mott Era, all RIF's have been accomplished
by buyouts. There's no reason the company can't do that today - but that
doesn't carry the same fear factor.

Actually, I can think of one sign that may indicate the threats are
real.  I've had differences with the current regime on some issues, but
I know them to be fine journalists. I am confident some or all of the
masthead people would resign rather than enact such draconian cuts. They
know that cutting the staff in half over two years would destroy this
paper. They got into the business to do newspapering, not to preside
over a hospice-care facility. They know it would be a disaster for their
employees, for our readers and advertisers (and perhaps for the
principal lending bank.) So, keep an eye on the glass offices.

In the meantime, let's take a deep breath and get back to work.  I
can tell you that the negotiating committee met with the federal
mediator yesterday and today and they are reporting progress on
significant issues.