Tension at the Tampa Tribune and WFLA-Ch. 8 as possible layoffs loom
It's been the talk of the local media scene for weeks: News that management has told employees that layoffs are coming, possibly next week, at Media General's Florida news platforms, including the Tampa Tribune, WFLA-Ch. 8 and TBO.com.
According to the sources I've spoken with, the news first came from John Schueler, president of the Media General subsidiary which controls the company's local outlets, the Florida Communications Group.
Unfortunately, Schueler and Tribune publisher Denise Palmer have not returned my repeated phone calls, so I haven't been able to confirm details, ask them exactly what is going on, or inquire when employees will know for sure whether their jobs are safe. This news comes as several other newspaper companies implement small rounds of layoffs across the country, stuck in a stubborn recession which has not eased for media as much as anyone has hoped.
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.
But important questions remain: Does revenue data indicate cuts may come more from the newspaper side? (One source said Schueler would only say they would not cut "boots on the street.") Will middle management and infrastructure staffers be affected most? Will original shows at WFLA such as Daytime, Star Watch and the Reel Animals fishing show be affected?
Disclosures about the job reductions are expected next week.