Post Co. Outlines Plan For Newsroom Buyouts

By Frank Ahrens

New Washington Post publisher Katharine Weymouth announced the terms of the previously announced employee buyouts today and said that because of the tough times in the newspaper industry, "I am sorry to say that we cannot rule out layoffs."

The paper said last month it would offer buyouts, or "voluntary early retirement incentive programs," to Post employees to reduce costs. The plan released today is for non-guild employees -- typically editors and other managers -- while a similar plan for guild employees, such as reporters, is promised soon.

The Post offered buyouts in 2003 and 2006. In the previous round, employees had to be at least 54 years old and have 10 years of service with the paper to qualify.

This time, all that is required for eligibility is to be 50 years old and have five years of Post service. Well more than 100 of The Post's approximately 785 newsroom employees will be eligible, management has said.

However, buyout offers will not be extended to everyone, Weymouth wrote in her e-mail to staffers today.

"Although we would like to be able to offer the [buyouts] to all who might be interested, they are being offered only in areas where positions do not need to be replaced or where we can otherwise achieve cost savings," she wrote.

Those taking the buyout will receive enhancements to their Post pension and health insurance coverage, as well.

Faced with declining circulation and ad revenue, the newspaper industry has been in rapid contraction. The New York Times recently offered buyouts to cut 100 newsroom positions, saying if the number were not met, layoffs would be considered. The paper extended the deadline for taking the buyout because it has not gotten 100 takers.

"We have more readers now, and more far flung readers, than we have ever had," Weymouth wrote. "And on-line revenues are growing. But, as you know, they are not yet growing fast enough to offset the declines we are seeing in print revenues."

By Dan Beyers  |  March 12, 2008; 12:54 PM ET  | Category:  Washington Post
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