Saved by the Ayes

The votes are in and The Star-Ledger will stay in the Newhouse family for the time being.

In a message to the staff, Publisher George Arwady said the Driver’s union voted 161-6 in acceptance of a contract that met the newspaper’s requirements. With that ratification conditions were met to prevent the sale or closure of the newspaper.

Read the story by Steve Chambers here.

Among the highlights are the following quotes:

“I’m thrilled The Star-Ledger will remain part of our family,” said Donald Newhouse, president of Advance Publications, which has owned the paper since 1935. “I have confidence in The Star-Ledger management team, and I think we can do in the future what we have done in the past: serve the needs of our readers and advertisers.”

Publisher George E. Arwady was equally effusive in a letter published in Wednesday’s editions.

“As of today, The Star-Ledger family has achieved the three objectives we outlined in July as necessary to our survival,” the letter read in part. “I use the word family, because the past few months have underscored how deep the bonds are among the people who produce this great paper, as well as those who read it.”

It was unclear Tuesday evening precisely how many full-time non-union employees will be leaving the newspaper, but upward of one-third of the newsroom staff will go, executives said. Arwady pledged in his letter that The Star-Ledger will continue to be a newspaper the state can be proud of, and Editor Jim Willse said plans for continuing in that vein will begin immediately.

“The goal was to have 130 newsroom staffers sign up for the buyout. Considerably more than that did,” Willse said. “Over the coming days, we need to decide how many of the buyouts will be accepted, and we’ll have to start making plans for the paper going forward.”

While this brings to an end worry about the immediate fate of the newspaper, it raises many new questions including which employees will get the buyout and whether all of this effort has been part of a long-term solution for the newspaper.

In his note to the staff Arwady acknowledged that far more than 230 people signed for the buyout. Any above that number are not guaranteed to receive a buyout. There will apparently be a process by which decisions are made and the publisher says it won’t be quick, but it will hopefully be done by the end of October.

So some who sought the buyout may be forced to remain at the paper and, the note adds, some employees who did not opt for the buyout may still be transfered to other jobs. The threat of such transfers was used during the past month in an apparent attempt to convince some employees to sign for the buyout.

As for the future of the newspaper, there are at least as many questions at The Star-Ledger as there are at any newspaper in the US. Operating losses at the Ledger for the last couple of years have been said to be n the $30-50 million range. And numerous industry reports say 2008 was shaping up to be one of the worst-ever years for newspaper advertising even before the recent financial crisis struck.

So while we may all share a small measure of relief, the vote by the drivers saved The Star-Ledger only for today. We all will still have to wait and see what happens tomorrow.

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4 Responses to “Saved by the Ayes”

  1. Those of us who produce this great paper definitely do, and have for years, understood the bond of operating as a family. It seems quite certain that NO ONE in the newsroom would consider Arwady a part of that family. He has done nothing to continue that bond of unity… the Newhouses themselves have, sadly, undone in the past two months those familial bonds that many of us held dear for decades. Not sure what could repair that now…

  2. jerseygull Says:

    Well said, employee. It’s broken beyond repair. And those who broke it will move on, sailing off with their golden parachutes, while the rest of us try to figure out what the hell happened. As one who is fairly certain of receiving the buyout, I’m actually sorry for those who will be left behind, either because they opted not to take the offer or because their buyout will be refused. It won’t be the same place, and never can be again.

  3. dizzylizzy Says:

    …….. that’s interesting jerseygull………. While it is certain MOST of the editorial will be granted access to leave, have any of you given though to all of the other SL employees who will be left behind. I agree the Editorial dept is a major part of the paper’s exsistence, however there are far too may other department employees that provide an essentail part of our exsistance & will be left behind simply becasue they are not in Editorial. I am in sales and my sources tell me that although I may have “the years” (over 20) I will not be not be considered because I bring the all to important dollar into the company. I am outraged!!!

  4. sizzlingjboy Says:

    “…have any of you given though to all of the other SL employees who will be left behind?”

    In times like these one tends to think of those closest to them first. However, I’m sure we would all be interested to hear how this issue and the buyout is affecting the rest of the building.

    While editorial is important (content creation is necessary), advertising demands all of our attention at this time (company can’t survive by constantly cutting expenses, there must be additional revenue). Likewise, circulation remains critical and increasingly difficult.

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