Half of Employees at WFLA-Ch. 8, Tampa Tribune and Other Tampa-Area Outlets Offered Buyouts By Media General Subsidiary
UPDATE: Florida Communications Group president John Schueler confirmed to me moments ago that the company will offer buyouts to half its 1,326 employees, including people who work at WFLA-Ch. 8, TBO.com, The Tampa Tribune Spanish-language CENTRO, Hernando Today, Sunbelt Newspapers and a host of other smaller daily and weekly newspapers.
Schueler said it was an alignment of the Media General-owned company that would save money and meld responsibilities of staffers across their various media platforms in the same way their "convergence" efforts share news material. For example, the president and publisher of the Tampa Tribune, Denise Palmer, is now responsible for content across all the FCG platforms. The president and general manager of WFLA, Mike Pumo, is now responsible for revenues across all platforms, and their operations at all platforms will also be centralized under a single vice president.
Schueler said staffers can request to be part of the buyout, becoming eligible for either one week of salary per year of service up to 26 weeks or 2 weeks per year up to 39 weeks, depending on their position within the company. He expects to spend two weeks analyzing the requests and their possible impact before informing employees whether they will accept the requests.
Some positions will be excluded from the offer, which the company is calling a Voluntary Reduction in Force program and has an April 25 deadline. Schueler couldn't say whether any of the company's platforms would be cut back or reduced to fit the smaller workforce.
Schueler also said the scope of employees who are eligible for the buyout does not indicate the number of employees who might be cut under the program, and he denied rumors that specific employees were being told to take the buyout or their jobs likely would be eliminated.
He also denied the program was a response to continued talk about the Florida properties' impact on Media General stock price, following a challenge from hedge fund Harbinger Capital Partners. (UPDATE END)
A spokesman for Media General has just confirmed what I've been hearing from anonymous tipsters all day: That the Media General company which owns its Tampa area news outlets is offering buyouts to select employees, beginning today.
The Florida Communications Group, which includes the Tampa Tribune, WFLA-Ch. 8, TBO.com, the Spanish-language CENTRO and a host of other smaller daily and weekly newspapers, announced what it calls a Voluntary Reduction in Force program. Employees are receiving packets with information on the program structure and timeline, with Q&A sessions scheduled at the beginning of this week to answer questions.
This news follows Media General's growing conflict with Harbinger Capital Partners, a hedge fund seeking to force three directors of its choosing onto their board. One of the few things Harbinger and Media General have agreed on is the impact of the recession in Florida, which both sides say have pulled down the company's revenues.
Harbinger issued a press release this morning touting proxy services company Glass Lewis' endorsement of one person nominated by the hedge fund for Media General's board, J. Daniel Sullivan.
All this news comes as the Society of Professional Journalists announced a 2007 Sigma Delta Chi Award in deadline reporting, online, given to the staffs of TBO.com, WFLA and the Tampa Tribune for their joint "converged" reporting on storms in central Florida.
More to come....