Before taking the helm at the Washington Times about two months ago, John Solomon worked for years as a reporter at the Washington Post and AP. Never let it be said, however, that the guy couldn’t write like a CEO.
Last night, Solomon sent an e-mail out to his people seeking to update them on “some important developments.”
Then came a line about “reshaping the newsroom for the challenges of the 21st century”—a classic of ’00s newsroom rhetoric. This reshaping, noted Solomon, will require “tough decisions.”
After that, Solomon thanks his roughly 200-member staff for cost-cutting suggestions submitted as part of something known at the paper as “Blue Sky questionnaires.” Those suggestions, he says, have moved the paper closer to profitability.
But not quite close enough! And if you’re in the news biz, you know what that means. A new budgetary year for the Times started on April 1, and profitability considerations, says the editor, “will require us to say goodbye to some colleagues we have known for many years and to celebrate their many accomplishments as they leave us.”
We all know what those celebrations feel like. Some cake, some tears, and a corny newspaper mockup by the folks in the art department to fete the outgoing victims of downsizing.
Full memo after the jump.
I want to update you on some important developments that are about to occur. As we discussed in our private coffees a few weeks ago, reshaping the newsroom for the challenges of the 21st century and moving the entire company toward profitability were going to require many tough decisions. This is especially true in the current marketplace where traditional revenues are down across the industry. With the arrival of our new budget year, the first round of those tough decisions has arrived: we must determine the appropriate size of the newsroom for its new mission and current resources.
We have reviewed all of the ideas from those of you who responded to the Blue Sky questionnaires and probed deeply into every aspect of our finances, operations and news coverage to achieve significant savings. That effort has already moved us much closer to our goal of profitability. But we still need to find additional savings under our 2008 budget that takes effect today. And just as important, we need to inject new skill sets into the newsroom to ensure we can compete in the news marketplace of tomorrow.
Over the next few weeks, we will make a difficult journey. The effort will be expeditious and fair, even-handed and humane. It will require us to say goodbye to some colleagues we have known for many years and to celebrate their many accomplishments as they leave us. It will also allow us to welcome some new colleagues whose skills will improve our capabilities, particularly in the digital arena. By the end of April, we will have achieved a newsroom that is stronger and better aligned for the future.
The Human Resources Department will provide each affected employee in the coming days with the necessary information about the skills review process, severance and outplacement assistance. If you have any questions, in the meantime, please feel free to contact Ted Agres, David Jones or myself in the newsroom or Sonya Jenkins and Sherri Harris in Human Resources. We’ll also have an opportunity to discuss this at a newsroom-wide meeting planned for the afternoon of Thursday, April 10.