Tag Archives: layoff

Birmingham News fires more than 100 employees

Advance cuts 400 jobs statewide, 200 more in New Orleans

Birmingham News staff

Birmingham News staff outside of its downtown headquarters

By Wade Kwon

The Birmingham News fired more than 100 employees today, including more than 60 in the newsroom, as part of owner Advance’s new strategy. Their last day of work will be Sept. 30.

Said one employee who will be staying, “I’d rather be waterboarded than go into that office on a daily basis.”

As previously reported, managers held one-on-one meetings all day long to notify staffers whether they would be terminated with severance packages, asked to stay on or asked to apply for new jobs at the company.

Similar meetings took place at the Huntsville Times, the (Mobile) Press-Register and the Times-Picayune in New Orleans. All four newspapers will cut back to publication on Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays in the fall, while ramping up content on recently redesigned news sites al.com and nola.com.

Advance is cutting some 400 jobs at its Alabama operations, and another 201 in New Orleans. A report in the Times-Picayune says that is an overall staff reduction of 32 percent, with 84 of the 173 newsroom employees (49 percent) fired today.

The Gambit, a weekly alternative paper there, reported via Twitter that most of the marketing department was fired, as well as all of the special section, library and human resources departments. The new New Orleans company Nola Media Group plans on hiring for 83 positions, including 40 in news.

Neither Advance nor managers at the Alabama newspapers have released specific information about cuts by city or department.

A source at the Birmingham News who asked to remain anonymous said that about 107 would be fired today at the company, and of them about 61 were newsroom employees (55 percent of the 110 staff members listed online). (Several had already left prior to today’s layoffs.) Most of the photographers and copy editors have been let go.

List of Birmingham News editorial staff departures
(to be updated)

Notable editorial departures include business editor Jerry Underwood, photography director Walt Stricklin, 31-year veteran reporter Chuck Dean and Washington correspondent Mary Orndorff. Two newsroom staffers fired today are pregnant, and another staffer was fired a week in advance because of a scheduled cancer operation.

Times-Picayune employees have been asked to sign non-disclosure and non-disparagement agreements as a condition of receiving their severance packages; it is believed Alabama Advance employees have been asked to do so as well.

Cindy Martin, president of al.com and of the newly formed Alabama Media Group, declined to comment on staffing and changes at the News, al.com or Birmingham Magazine. In the media release, she said, regarding those losing their jobs across the state today:

“Their dedication and expertise to our newspapers and the communities they served cannot be overstated. We offer our sincere gratitude to each person for their contributions and years of service to these excellent institutions.”

Birmingham News publisher Pam Siddall (now president of Advance Central Services of Alabama) has not returned a request for comment, nor has Birmingham Magazine editor Julie Keith.

Several staffers staying with the Birmingham company are taking on new titles, such as equality and human rights reporter and, for popular metro columnist John Archibald, local buzz reporter. No clear duties or beats appear to have been assigned to the new titles.

More than 100 vacant positions for the two new local companies will be filled before the fall, with some ads to appear on al.com this week. [Ads have been posted for Alabama Media Group and Advance Central Services Alabama.]

Little is known as to how many, if any, employees were dismissed at al.com, or how its organizational structure might change in the new company.

However, Media of Birmingham has learned that Advance has fired three of the eight Birmingham Magazine staff members: managing editor Carla Jean Whitley (with the publication since 2006) and two on the business side.

Advance and the Birmingham News bought the 50-year-old magazine for an undisclosed amount in October from the Birmingham Business Alliance. Since then, News staffers had taken on duties for the newly acquired publication, after the magazine moved into the newspaper’s downtown offices. Several magazine staff members were fired during the transition.

No information has been forthcoming about the magazine’s place within either of the two new companies.

The firings today had originally been scheduled for last week, but were changed to today both in Alabama and New Orleans. No date has been announced for the thrice-weekly publishing.

Regarding the News’ management to date, one outgoing newsroom employee said, “They’re such assholes.”

Additional coverage:


  • Birmingham social media expert David Griner set up a Twitter account @ALNewsJobs and Facebook page today to connect unemployed journalists with career opportunities.

More stories on the Birmingham News

More stories on Advance Publications

Wade Kwon is a co-founder of Media of Birmingham and a Birmingham journalist for 25 years.

If you have more info on changes at the Birmingham News, al.com or Birmingham Magazine, please contact me.

EXCLUSIVE: Birmingham News offers buyouts to employees across the board

The Birmingham News offered buyouts today to employees, the third round of buyouts in 16 months. Media of Birmingham has learned that all employees will be eligible this round, regardless of number of years of service or full-time or part-time status.

Birmingham NewsPast buyouts were limited to those with at least 5 years of service.

Our insiders tell us that full-time employees taking the buyout would receive 2 weeks of pay for every year of service, while part-time employees would receive 1 week of pay for every year of service. Both are capped at 6 months.

The daily newspaper is looking for “substantial staff reductions,” this time, but says no layoffs are planned for Feb. 6, when the Advance Publications’ “no layoff” pledge expires. The newspaper has not only faced an advertising shortfall because of the down economy but also a 10.8 percent drop in weekday circulation.

Earlier this year, the News cut benefits and required furloughs.

Meanwhile, the Birmingham News will look for a publisher to replace recently retired publisher Victor Hanson III.

Update Dec. 9: Another insider tells us that the buyouts have been offered at the other two Advance newspapers in Alabama: the Huntsville Times and the Press-Register in Mobile. Also, the buyouts are apparently limited to non-union employees.

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EXCLUSIVE: Cooking Light adds to Southern Progress layoffs

The bloodshed continues at Southern Progress Corporation.

cooking-light-nov-2009-coverThe fall layoffs continued into week 2 at the Birmingham-based publisher: Media of Birmingham has learned from company sources that five Cooking Light editorial staffers were laid off Tuesday.

Update Nov. 12: We’re revising the total to six laid off Thursday. Worth noting: Editor Mary Kay Culpepper left in September; executive editor Billy Sims is leaving voluntarily; and managing editor Maelynn Cheung was laid off in this round. Which means all three top positions at the mag have been vacated in the last 2 months.

The Time Inc. outfit laid off 48 employees Thursday, including 13 in Southern Living’s editorial department, eight in SPConnect (formerly Custom Publishing) and three in human resources.

The news comes as Time Inc. reports a third-quarter ad revenue drop of $129 million, or 22 percent, compared to the same quarter in 2008. And yet, despite that gloomy news, Cooking Light had a 27 percent increase in December ad pages, while Southern Living had a 34 percent increase. Both figures for the Southern Progress titles are self reported to the Publishers Information Bureau.

With additional reports coming in, the count for this round stands at 54 people laid off.

Update Nov. 12: The Birmingham Business Journal reports two possible but opposing outcomes. First, Time Inc. spokeswoman Debra Richman said the company will hire back “a number of positions” but did not elaborate on how many or which jobs. Second, the story concludes with, “Southern Progress sources said they expect layoffs to continue through December.”

If you’ve been laid off from SPC, or know someone who has, please let us know via our contact form. We’ll keep your personal information confidential.

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EXCLUSIVE: Dozens laid off this morning at Southern Progress

southern-progress-corp-logoAs part of Time Inc’s plan to lay off 6 percent of its workforce, Birmingham-based publisher Southern Progress Corporation began laying off dozens of employees this morning, according to our sources.

Update: The total number of people laid off today stands at 48, or a 12 percent to 13 percent reduction in workforce at Southern Progress.

The hardest hit groups appear to be accounting and Southern Living’s editorial staff. Others in support roles and on the business side were laid off. Several Cooking Light staffers reportedly took buyouts.

Coastal Living, Health and SPC Digital appear to have escaped this round with no layoffs.

Southern Progress magazines continued to see declines in advertising revenue in the third quarter.

Time Inc. filed notice Wednesday with the New York Department of Labor that it plans to lay off 280 workers within New York State between Nov. 2 and Jan. 31.

Update: The Birmingham News has an official statement from Time Inc.

Update: Southern Progress is also closing its corporate library and has plans to lease one of its three buildings after moving staff into the other two buildings.

Update Nov. 6: The New York Post reports that in addition to the cuts in the Lifestyle Group in Birmingham, three Real Simple staff members were laid off in New York.

If you’ve been laid off from SPC, or know someone who has, please let us know via our contact form. We’ll keep your personal information confidential.

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‘Biggest mass firing’ in 2009 coming to Southern Progress, Time Inc.

Next week likely to determine who goes at Birmingham operation

southern-progress-corp-logoTime Inc. plans to cut 6 percent of its 9,000-member workforce before Thanksgiving, according to a report today in the New York Post. Its Birmingham-based Southern Progress is expected to dole out pink slips as soon as Thursday, say company insiders. Time Inc. will release third quarter earnings on Wednesday.

The scale of the layoffs means Time Inc. holds the distinction of the biggest mass firing in publishing this year, outpacing the 460-plus involuntary terminations at rival Condé Nast.

As previously reported, Southern Progress has cut 41.4 percent of its Birmingham staff in the past 12 months, eliminating 290 positions. However, this quarter’s cuts are expected to go deeper …

The Birmingham, Ala.-based Southern Progress, whose flagship title is Southern Living, escaped major hits in the round of layoffs unveiled in the fourth quarter of last year. The division … will not be so lucky this time around, sources predicted.

Southern Progress also oversees Cooking Light, Health, Coastal Living and Sunset magazines and Myhomeideas.com and Myrecipes.com. It closed Cottage Living and Southern Accents magazines and sold Southern Living at Home.

Time Inc. cut 6 percent of its 10,000-member workforce in 2008. All Southern Progress titles lost ad revenue between the third quarter of 2008 and 2009.

Read more stories on Southern Progress.

Update Nov. 3: The New York Times reports Time Inc. has begun layoffs at Sports Illustrated, and that layoff meetings begin Wednesday morning at other titles.

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More changes at the top for the Birmingham News

Publisher retires, but what’s next?

Back in August, we reported that Advance Publications gave oversight responsibilities for the Birmingham News to new president Ricky Mathews. It appears that may have precipitated the latest major shakeup at the News, with publisher Victor Hanson III retiring Dec. 1. No word yet as to who will be tapped to replace him.

Hanson, the fourth family member to serve as publisher, will retire at age 53 after 8 years at the top position. He’s not the only Advance publisher leaving: Fred A. Stickel of the Oregonian in Portland retired in September at age 87 after 35 years. (Hat tip Inside Out McwFlint.)

One definite ripple effect from Mathews’ hire is a lawsuit by former (Mobile) Press-Register publisher Howard Bronson against Advance:

Bronson said Newhouse officials in July 2009 reneged on a longstanding job security pledge for the paper’s employees and in August told him that he had two weeks to leave.

A message left with Mark Newhouse was not immediately returned.

Lagniappe, Mobile’s alternative newspaper, has more details on Bronson’s lawsuit.

Media of Birmingham broke the story about Advance’s ending of the no-layoffs policy, often called the Newhouse Pledge. A former Press-Register reporter offers his take on the pledge’s demise.

Who will take over the News, Alabama’s largest newspaper? And will the News and Press-Register begin layoffs in February when the pledge expires?

Southern Progress: 41.4 percent staff reduction in 11 months


Summer was a brutal season for Southern Progress.

After laying off 200 of its 700 employees during the fourth quarter of 2008 — a 28.6 percent cut — the Birmingham-based Time Inc. operation / magazine publisher shed 90 positions total this summer.

Southern Progress sold Southern Living at Home to Entertaining at Home in July, lightening the load by 70 employees (of whom 29 promptly were let go by the new owner earlier this month).

It also ceased publication on Southern Accents magazine, letting 20 staffers go.

With 90 positions cut from the 500 remaining, Southern Progress has tightened up staff by another 18 percent in the last 60 days, or 41.4 percent in the past 11 months.

So, at Southern Progress in the past 11 months:

  • 290 positions eliminated
  • 41.4 percent staff reduction
  • 2 magazines folded
  • 1 operation sold

The one bright spot: Southern Living’s circulation increased 1.35 percent in the first half of 2009, making it No. 19 among U.S. magazines (and No. 4 among Time Inc. titles). (Of course, Reader’s Digest declaring bankruptcy makes it actually No. 18 across the nation.)

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EXCLUSIVE: Southern Living at Home lays off 30 employees

southern-living-at-homeFollowing up on our post from earlier this month, the new Southern Living at Home is leaner and meaner. Media of Birmingham has learned that 30 of the company’s 60 employees were laid off Thursday, as part of its acquisition by Entertaining at Home.

Update: The Birmingham News reports 29 jobs were eliminated, leaving 41 on the payroll.

The Birmingham-based Southern Living at Home sells housewares through Tupperware-style parties, as part of Southern Progress Corporation. Departing employees will receive severance packages from Time Inc., not from the new corporate owner.

“The future looks extremely bright for us this fall as the contraction in our industry ends and we begin to transition to a period of expansion,” wrote Bill Shaw, president of Entertaining at Home, in an e-mail to staff members last week. “Our goal is to build a strong business with sustainable growth that creates jobs and we look forward to accomplishing that in the near future.”

The 30 29 laid-off employees comes on the heels of Southern Progress’ shutdown of Southern Accents magazine this month, putting 20 employees out of work.

The complete text of the e-mail …

From: Bill Shaw
Sent: Monday, August 17, 2009 2:45 PM
Subject: Email to all employees

When we acquired Southern Living At Home we were very open about the need to right-size the cost of infrastructure to match the size of revenue expected in 2009. We talked about combining two infrastructures into one more cost effective organization by eliminating jobs that were redundant, identifying jobs that would be required only during the integration transition and finally securing jobs that would be needed long-term. This has been an extremely difficult process for everyone involved, especially those of you that have waited patiently for us to complete our work. These decisions are the most difficult we’ve ever been required to make and we wanted to take as much time as possible to ensure we got it right. These decisions, as difficult as they may be are essential to immediately return us to stability and position us for growth. I’m deeply saddened by the reality that this Thursday we will be releasing a group of extraordinarily talented individuals into a difficult employment market. My consolation is knowing how obviously valuable these people will be to prospective new employers and that our Nation is beginning its economic recovery. In addition to the severance packages we will be awarding, I want every discharged employee to know that they can list me personally as a reference and I will commit to return all calls to prospective employers to ensure they understand the circumstances of the termination and how highly regarded each person is to our management.

Also, late this week we will sit down with the remaining employees to discuss the status of their continued employment so they can plan for their future. All remaining employees will have until the close of business on Monday, August 31, to submit resignations and receive their Time, Inc. equivalent severance package. If you choose to go forward and then decide to leave our employment voluntarily after September 1, 2009, you will not be eligible for a severance. Should your jobs be eliminated during the first year of our ownership of the company, either as part of a transitional layoff or for some other reason other than with cause, you will be eligible for the same Time, Inc. equivalent severance package.

There is a clear path to success with Southern Living at Home and our new combined business. The future looks extremely bright for us this fall as the contraction in our industry ends and we begin to transition to a period of expansion. Our goal is to build a strong business with sustainable growth that creates jobs and we look forward to accomplishing that in the near future.


Bill Shaw

Southern Accents shuts down

Southern Progress drops second magazine in nine months

Southern Accents coverTime Inc. closed Birmingham-based magazine Southern Accents today, but plans on continuing the site SouthernAccents.com. No word as to what will happen to the employees of the magazine.

Southern Accents is the second Southern Progress magazine to fold in nine months, following Cottage Living’s demise in November. Ad revenue for Southern Accents dropped a whopping 32.1 percent from the first six months of 2008 to the same period of this year.

Update: Southern Accents’ 20 employees are laid off, though editor-in-chief Karen Carroll could stay on with Southern Progress in another capacity. Also, executive vice president Sylvia Auton came from New York to deliver the news to staff in person.

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EXCLUSIVE: Birmingham News could face layoffs by February

Owner Advance Pubs ends long-standing no-layoffs policy

Advance Publications’ Newhouse Newspapers will end its policy of no layoffs, announcing the change to staffs today, including the Birmingham News. The pledge ends in six months, meaning the staff at the News (as well as the Press-Register in Mobile and the Huntsville Times) could face layoffs by February.

Media of Birmingham has learned that staffers with at least 5 years at the Birmingham News were offered buyouts, two weeks salary for every year (six month maximum).

In June, the News cut salaries 5 percent to 8 percent, ended furloughs and offered a round of buyouts.

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