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This morning, staffers at the Washington Post are meeting with Publisher and CEO Bo Jones. The get-together is being called an “expanded staff meeting,” and agenda item No. 1 is a rumored round of early retirement offers. Several well-placed Post sources say that Jones is likely to announce that the buyouts are on their way, the better to bring the Post‘s newsroom in line with ever-shrinking ad revenues.
Details at this point are scarce. In recent weeks, Posties have pressed their managers for particulars on what’s to come, but with little success. Queries sent yesterday to Managing Editor Phil Bennett and to Washington Post Co. spokesperson Rima Calderon fetched no response.
This would be the third round of early retirement offers that the Post has carried out in the ’00s. The first came in 2003 and reduced the payroll by 54 staffers; the second, in 2006, netted about 70. Combined with attrition and a shitcanning here and there, the reductions have put the total Post newsroom staff at about 800.
Word around the newsroom is that another 60 must go. With an enormous pension fund, buyouts appear to be the staff-reduction tool of choice, yet again. The advantages of early retirement offers are several, including the important PR distinction that the Post isn’t doing layoffs. Also, the buyouts tend to be very generous—the last one essentially gave departing folks two years’ salary for no work—and so no one ends up carping about a stingy employer.
But early retirement offers are a blunt tool that leaves upper management powerless to mold their staffs. They’re offered to the paper’s senior people without regard to talent or productivity. Really good reporters and editors who have great prospects with other employers have the most incentive to leap; lame reporters and editors, not so much.