Another Journal Sentinel Purge
Veteran county reporter Steve Schultze is among those who may leave.
For the last eight years or so, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has gone through a periodic bloodletting, shedding veteran, higher-paid staff in response to ever-declining circulation and ad revenues. And yet another round is coming. Betsy Brenner, president of Journal Sentinel Inc. told the Business Journal and reporter Rich Kirchen that the company was seeking more employee “separations” but offered no more details. Nor would she expand on this in a response to my query.
Brenner did tell Kirchen the newspaper faces financial challenges due to the loss of ads from American TV and Appliance, which has gone out of business. Sources tell me the newspaper is expecting a 20 percent decline in revenue this year, due to expected losses after the first quarter. (No wonder the newspaper did so many stories about American TV’s demise.)
The paper typically doesn’t give a hard number of staff it wants to shed, but editors drop hints and suggestions. I’m told that veteran reporter Steve Schultze, who has covered the high profile county government beat, is going to take a buyout (he would not confirm or deny this). Others mentioned include Bill Windler, a senior editor in the sports department (who also wouldn’t confirm or deny) and an unnamed copy editor in the sports department. In an earlier version of this story I reported that Georgia Pabst is also considering a buyout, but I’ve been told by JS columnist Dan Bice that this is not happening. (Pabst did not respond to my email.)
Schultze’s departure would be big deal, as county government, ever since the newspaper was scooped on the pension scandal, has been a key beat. Moreover, there has been considerable tension between Schultze and County Executive Chris Abele, as I’ve reported.
I’ve been a critic of Schultze’s reporting but others disagree: Milwaukee Magazine press commentator Erik Gunn picked him as one of the better beat reporters in town. Schultze has quite a knowledge of the city and its political scene, which is unlikely to be replaced. Any new hirings would be of younger, cheaper staff.
I’ve lost count of all the JS buyouts, but they have occurred every year or so since 2006. The newsroom lost 22 employees in late 2007 and ultimately cut five percent of its staff. Some 130 were let go in 2008.
By July 2009, as the Milwaukee News Guild, the newspaper’s union reported, the paper was offering its fourth buyout in less than three years. “During 2009 alone, buyouts and layoffs cut the newsroom work force by one-third,” the guild reported in October 2011, while noting that six more newsroom jobs would be lost that month.
One spot of good news for the company is Journal Communications stock, still near its six-year peak at about $8, way up from when it cratered at 49 cents in March 2009.