Tampa Tribune pop music critic Curtis Ross among Media General staffers laid off today
Tampa Tribune pop music critic Curtis Ross is the highest-profile name confirmed so far among the employees laid off today as part of owner Media General's long-anticipated job reductions at the company's Florida outlets, including the Tribune, WFLA-Ch. 8 and TBO.com.
Ross is among nine people in Media General's Florida newsrooms laid off today. He declined to comment beyond confirming that he was let go after nearly 24 years at the Tribune, about 14 years spent at music critic.
Rommie Johnson, entertainment editor at the Tribune's Friday Extra entertainment tabloid, also confirmed he was laid off today after nearly 18 years at the company.
Former editors Mary Hitt McCoy and Penny Carnathan also confirmed they were laid off today. McCoy had worked at the Tribune for 10 years; Carnathan has worked at the Tribune since 1981, about 30 years.
The newspaper's website, TBO.com, published a story saying 29 people were laid off today, including 20 people from back office positions such as the pressroom who help print the newspaper.
Friends and fans of other Media General employees in Tampa have been trading names of other people supposedly laid off in social media. But I don't feel comfortable floating specific names until they are confirmed to me. I have not heard anything specifc about layoffs on the TV side or outside of the newsrooms.
The layoffs, which seemed to hit the Tribune's features department hard, leaves open the question of whether Friday Extra will change and how the newspaper will cover the area's vibrant concert and pop music scenes.
At least some staffers were contacted at home and asked to meet with Tribune executives for the news, later allowed to gather items from their desks and say goodbye to friends. Though some staffers thought the layoffs might not target people who produce a lot of content for the newspaper and website, the names revealed publicly don't necessarily fit that picture.
There may be more information available later today, after managers have met with the staff. I also have phone calls into John Schueler, Media General's top executive in Florida and Tribune publisher Denise Palmer.
In April, Media General announced an operating loss of $4.2 million in the first quarter of 2011 company-wide. Locally, its Florida outlets lost $3.1 million, down from a $1.2 million profit last year, which was fueled largely by revenue from Olympics broadcasts. The company's report notes that publishing drove a 4.2 percent decline in Florida revenues, even as WFLA found a way to replace its lost Olympics profits.