More bad news for some Mississippians covering news at the state's largest newspaper. Gannett, the owner of the Clarion-Ledger, is cutting positions and targeting veteran journalists.
The Clarion-Ledger is one of the Gannett corporation's 82 daily newspapers. Employees at least 56 years old with 20 years of service were offered Gannett's "Early Retirement Opportunity Program." It reportedly will compensate them two weeks' pay for every year of employment.
We are told at least eight people are affected. Two confirmed are award-winning sports columnist Rick Cleveland and outdoors editor Bobby Cleveland.
No one we contacted would talk about the forced retirement.
Former Clarion-Ledger chief photographer Chris Todd worked for the paper from 1981 to 2010, just shy of 30 years. Todd said he was the last person to work on the only Pulitzer Prize winning project the Clarion-Ledger received in December of 1982. He said it won the Meritorious Public Service Award for coverage of the Education Reform Act of 1982.
"I was in the graduating class of November 2010 and got one week's severance and no buyout. My insurance was gone in a month. I am now having a ball freelancing, a lot less stress and a lot more fun," said Todd.
Former Clarion-Ledger columnist Orley Hood joined the paper as a sports writer in 1976 while attending Belhaven College. He was let go in 2008 in the early round of cutbacks. He said it was a great paper 30 years ago.
"The Clarion-Ledger would be in the conversation with the New York Times, Washington Post and Chicago Tribune. Real journalism was getting done, and my fear for the future is not what gets reported in newspapers and television, but what doesn't get reported -- what will never be reported because no one is looking," said Hood.
WLBTalso contacted the Clarion-Ledger for response.Our questions were referred to Gannett senior vice president and chief marketing officer Maryam Banikarim. Laura Dalton, director of corporate communications, replied via email:
"Gannett is offering a voluntary Early Retirement Opportunity Program to 665 eligible U.S. Community Publishing employees who are age 56 with at least 20 years of service, as of March 31, 2012, and who are in certain departments and/or job categories," said Dalton. "Eligibility by department or job category varies by each operating unit depending on its needs. While 785 employees meet the criteria, the offer is being offered to 665 employees due to ongoing operational needs at the company. The offer is for U.S. Community Publishing employees only."
We are told that if employees do not take the retirement offer there would be no guarantee of any type of future severance.
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