WFLA-Ch. 8 sportscaster Dave Reynolds among 53 people laid off by Media General in Florida Monday
Dave Reynolds had just returned to the newsroom at Tampa NBC affiliate WFLA-Ch. 8, fresh from covering a press conference Monday afternoon, when the dreaded message came: you're wanted for a meeting in the human resources office.
Before long, Reynolds had learned he was among 53 people laid off by the Florida division of WFLA's parent company Media General Monday, released just shy of his sixth anniversary at the station.
Overall, Florida Communications Group eliminated 65 positions Monday -- including 12 open jobs -- citing continuing problems with advertising in a tight economy.
Among those who remain at Media General's Florida outlets -- which include WFLA, the Tampa Tribune newspaper, Hernando Today, TBO.com, Spanish-language CENTRO and a host of smaller publications -- staffers must take an additional unpaid day of leave in April, May and June. They each already have taken 10 unpaid days.
"Tampa Bay’s economy is not recovering . . . (and) advertisers continue to aggressively cut their spending," said FCG president John Schueler, in a memo circulated to employees Monday. Schueler said he plans to meet with every department in the company to discuss the reductions and detail further efforts to cut operating costs. A report on TBO.com said the company has stopped publishing two lifestyle publications and is reviewing others, while considering closing some news bureaus.
Reynolds, 45, had been covering sports with one other anchor, Dan Lucas; he said WFLA never really named another lead sports anchor after former top dog J.P. Peterson left more than a year ago. The change also means WFLA has just four people of color among an on-air staff of 26 reporters and anchors.
Now, Reynolds says WFLA plans to use more staffers from the Tampa Tribune to help report sports stories on air. The station also has cut back the Sunday Sports Extra show, he says.
"It's obviously tremendously disappointing," Reynolds adds, who has a wife and 4-year-old son. "After a certain while, you think you might be safe...This year was arguably the biggest year ever for sports in the Tampa Bay area, with the World Series and Super Bowl and so many other stories. For us to do what we did with two people . . . we worked very hard."
Click below to read Schueler's memo:
Thus far in 2009, Tampa Bay’s economy is not recovering. Advertisers continue to aggressively cut their spending. Therefore we will need to further reduce our operating costs.
Effective today, through open positions and reductions in force, 65 positions have been eliminated. In addition, we will add one more furlough day per month to April, May and June for all FCG employees. Operating expense saving initiatives will also be rolled out over the next few weeks. Your department manager will explain these changes. I will also be meeting with each and every FCG department, starting tomorrow, to provide additional detail, clarify our short and long term plans for success and answer any questions you may have. It’s also a chance to get your input on how to grow audience, revenue and position ourselves for the future.
It seems that over the last few months we’ve been spending a lot of time deciding on expense cuts and furlough schedules, but it’s also been a time of accomplishment. At our upcoming meetings we will review these successes as well as our future plans. I look forward to talking with you.
John R. Schueler
Florida Communications Group