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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

AJC downsizing update

This morning's announcement that the AJC is offering a third round of buyouts came as something as a relief to many among the paper's beleaguered editorial staff. There's only so long you can show up for work not knowing if you're going to be canned that day before you start feeling a little stressed.

Senior writers and editors who were already convinced there was a pink sheet with their name on it are, we're told, generally pleased to find out they've got another chance to get out with a decent severance package. In fact, some employees have already handed in their completed buyout applications and are waiting to be told when is their last day on the job.

The deal on the table is the same as last time: two week's pay for every year of employment. But the number of bodies to be cleared out is higher than past downsizings. The stated goal is to cut the editorial payroll – currently 323 positions – by about 90. But we're told that's an estimate based on the total salary dollars the honchos are looking to save. That figure hasn't been released.

At a mid-morning staff meeting, editor Julia Wallace said the paper was planning to “significantly” reduce the number of managers in the historically top-heavy newsroom. But what does that mean? Unsubstantiated theories are flying that, when the dust has settled, there won't be any senior editors or that line editors will be eliminated. Whatever the case, it seems likely that reporters will be competing for the remaining writing positions with folks who got bounced from editing jobs. In other words, while some beats will almost certainly survive the re-organization – every daily paper must cover City Hall, schools, cops, courts, etc. – all bets are off as to who lands in those positions.

Maybe we'll get a better idea tomorrow morning. Most staffers have been instructed to show up at one meeting or another, depending on their status. Employees who haven't worked at the AJC at least five years have special reason to worry – they aren't eligible for buyouts, but could end up getting sacked if not enough of their co-workers leave voluntarily. Good times.

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