Layoffs at Suburban Journals; Publication Making Announcement Today

Suburban Journals take another hit.
Suburban Journals take another hit.
Updated 2:20 p.m: The Suburban Journals announced this afternoon that it is moving the bulk of its content online and drastically reducing its print coverage. The move also will eliminate 20 positions, according to a press release attached below.

Original story follows...

A recently terminated employee at the Suburban Journals tells us this morning that some 23 workers were fired from the publication after the close of business yesterday.

The employee, who doesn't want his name mentioned for fear the company could retaliate by withholding his severance pay, says he got a call around 8 p.m. yesterday from the publisher, Dave Bundy, and a representative from human resources.

"They told me that yesterday was my last day of work and that I'd get one week of severance pay for each year of employment," says the source, who worked for the publication for about a decade. "There was a weird feeling in the office all last week that something was imminent. Then, yesterday, management announced that all employees were to meet today at 9 a.m. to discuss a new direction for the Journals and Lee Enterprises."

The freshly fired employee says he believes those sacked yesterday included news and sports reporters, ad reps and graphic designers.

Bundy declined to comment to Daily RFT this morning. His assistant did return a call, however, telling us that an announcement would be emailed out later today and that no one would comment until then.

The Suburban Journals  was acquired by Lee Enterprises when the Iowa-based publisher purchased the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in 2005. Since then, the Journals have gone from free papers delivered each week to lawns across the metro area to a paid, subscription paper.

A media source tells Daily RFT that the Journals -- with its multiple zone editions for North County, South County, etc. -- had a circulation of 1.5 million when Lee acquired the company. Today that circulation is around 30,000 and the publication has zone editions just for St. Charles and Illinois counties. (Daily RFT was unable to confirm those figures with the Journals. We also have a call out to Lee Enterprises for confirmation.)

Since 2005 the Journals has had several rounds of layoffs, including the firing of a reporter who took a bullet while working for the publication. Lee's stock has plummeted since its acquisition of Pulizer Inc. (the former owner of the Suburban Journals and the Post-Dispatch). Today the company's stock risks being de-listed from the New York Stock Exchange because its value is so low. It currently trades at 77 cents -- a far cry from the $45 per share trading price when the paper announced its intent to acquire Pulitzer Inc. in January 2005.

The company also has $1 billion in debt that's supposed to be paid by April. Last week Lee began offering buyouts to newsroom employees at the Post-Dispatch in attempt to cut costs at that publication.
Journals Aug 24
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