Bee Cuts Workforce By 11 Percent

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(Sacramento, CA)
Monday, March 9, 2009

The Bee is cutting 29 jobs in its newsroom alone. Reporter Ed Fletcher got word that his job is safe. 

"On one hand you're happy that you know you're not going to be looking for a job. On the other hand a lot of good friends have lost their job. So it's a difficult time for everybody." 

In addition to the newsroom cuts, The Bee is eliminating jobs in circulation, production and advertising. All totaled, it's 11% of the paper's workforce. 

Pam Dinsmore is The Bee's community affairs director. She says the paper is faced with plunging ad revenues plaguing the entire publishing sector.

Dinsmore says despite the cuts they'll still be able to report thoroughly on both state government and Northern California. 

"The Capital Bureau was not impacted by any of the cuts and that remains a top priority as well as continuing to cover the region as the most trusted media source."

But Nick Burnett who heads Communications Studies at Sacramento State says The Bee's coverage can't help but be affected. 

"It has to impact it. I don't see how you can simply take an organization and just begin slicing away the veteran reporter corps without having some kind of impact on the coverage." 

Neil Henry is a professor at the Graduate School of Journalism at UC Berkeley. He says The Bee and other newspapers play an important watchdog role. The fact that newspapers are shrinking doesn't bode well for their task of holding officials accountable. 

"Whether the public realizes it or not, we are losing a significant vehicle for information and service to Democratic society." 

This latest round of cuts at The Bee is part of wider reductions made by the newspaper's parent corporation - McClatchy Company.

Rick Edmonds with the journalism think-tank Poynter Institute says McClatchy's troubles can be traced to its decision to buy the Knight Ridder newspaper chain three years ago. 

"They really need those profits to pay off their debt. So it pretty directly relates to the level of debt they took on in that purchase." 

The purchase left McClatchy $2 billion in debt, even though the chain's newspapers are reportedly still turning a profit. 

Bee reporter Ed Fletcher…who also represents the California Media Workers Guild…says that's something his union regrets.    

"If the guild had a time machine we'd go back in time and tell them not to buy Knight Ridder but we don't. So we're all sort of dealing with the difficult economy and the fact that we have to keep making payments on this debt or we'll go bankrupt like a lot of companies." 

Fletcher and other employees who didn't get laid off face wage cuts of up to six-percent and could be forced to take a week of unpaid leave.