USA Today publisher unveils employee pay cuts, furloughs

USA Today publisher Gannett announced a series of pay cuts and mandatory furloughs on Monday in the latest economic fallout from the coronavirus crisis.

Gannett executives will take a 25 percent pay cut and CEO Paul Bascobert will forgo his salary entirely until the pay reductions and furloughs cease and the coronavirus pandemic has subsided, Bascobert said in a memo to staffers.

The furloughs will apply on a rolling basis to staffers who make over $38,000 a year through June, Bascobert said.

The memo asked staffers from across Gannett’s newspapers to make a “collective sacrifice” to get through the crisis, which has taken a major toll on newspapers’ advertising revenues.

“I don’t think any of us expected events to progress so quickly,” Bascobert said in unveiling the cuts, which he said would take place “as soon as this week.”

“Direct sold advertising has already slowed and many businesses paused their scheduled marketing campaigns,” the memo said.

Bascobert noted a spike in digital traffic and online subscription as people rush to read about the coronavirus, but said it wasn’t enough to offset ad losses.

“Overall though, we expect our revenue to decline considerably during this period and we need to address this situation head on.”

In addition to USA TODAY, Gannett publishes hundreds of newspapers including The Record and Asbury Park Press in New Jersey, the Journal News in Westchester and Rockland Counties, as well as the Detroit Free Press, the Arizona Republic the Des Moines Register, and the Austin (Tex) American-Statesman.

Gannett was already the nation’s largest newspaper publisher when it merged with newspaper company New Media Investment Company, the parent of Gatehouse Media, last November.

The $1.2 billion merger, financed by private equity firm Apollo Global Management, made it even larger but has been expected to yield costs savings of $300, including staff cuts.

The furloughs announced Monday will not preclude future layoffs, Bascobert said, explaining that “integration work” as a result of the merger “will continue.”

More than 500 Gannett staffers had already been laid off since the merger was announced as the newspaper industry suffer declines in physical subscriptions amid growing competition from online publications.

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