The San Diego Union-Tribune laid off an unknown number of employees today, including at least 14 newsroom workers, according to sources.
Several sources said today’s layoffs numbered above 100, and the total for the year above 300. That would rank the newspaper’s job cuts among the highest of any company in San Diego County this year.
It’s the sixth downsizing at the paper since 2006. The paper has shrunk from 1,422 employees then to less than 850 — more than a 40 percent reduction. It was the company’s third layoff since last year, and the second since Beverly Hills-based Platinum Equity purchased the newspaper in May. That round of layoffs, which came three days after the sale was final, cut 192 people.
The U-T announced a reorganization plan in a news release today, but made only vague mention of the layoffs, saying changes at the company “will include a reduction and realignment of staffing levels.”
“I don’t think anyone who’s left feels secure,” said one newsroom employee who was laid off and wanted to remain anonymous. “Everyone is wondering when the next ax will fall and if they’ll be underneath it.”
According to a notice given to the laid-off newsroom employees, the layoffs came in departments across the newspaper, including circulation, finance, operations, and sales and marketing.
The highest profile employee to be laid off was Bob Kittle, editor of the newspaper’s editorial pages. Others included Bernie Jones, editor of the opinion page, investigative reporter David Hasemyer, cops reporter Mark Arner, military reporter Rick Rogers, as well as members of the photography staff, plus five employees who worked for the paper’s online operation.
The newspaper said in its release that employee pay, cut before the paper’s purchase by the Platinum Equity, will be partially reinstated in October.
Today was the last day for those who were laid off, a change from last spring when employees were given two months notice and had to continue working. But the company soon rescinded that order, allowing the laid-off workers to go home and continue to be paid for six weeks.
In addition to being paid until Oct. 11, those laid-off Wednesday will get one week of severance pay per year of service except for the first year, for which they’ll receive two weeks of pay.
Health insurance benefits for the employees will continue through the end of October.
According to the California Employment Development Department, only one company in the county — Amylin Pharmaceuticals — has laid off more than 300 employees this year. Amylin laid off 340, according to the records. State law requires 60-day notice when more than 50 employees can be laid off.
The laid-off newsroom employee, who asked not to be identified, described being stunned.
“You know how certain things happen. You’re in a daze,” the person said. “I’m not really upset, I’m in a daze. (Like) when somebody dies, you probably don’t really feel the mourning until a few days or weeks afterward.”