Halifax waives non-compete clause for NYT Regional Media Group employees

A tipster tells me:

Following a 45-minute meeting this afternoon between Michael Redding, chief executive officer of Halifax Media Group, and Sarasota Herald Tribune staffers, publisher Diane McFarlin announced that the controversial non-compete clause in new employment agreements would be scrapped.

From: McFarlin, Diane
Sent: Tuesday, January 10, 2012 6:04 PM
To: !STHQ-Sarasota Users
Subject: good news


Michael Redding has decided to waive the non-compete clause and the family relationship policies for all existing employees.

Diane McFarlin

In other words, you have been “grandfathered in.” This means you do not have to sign the non-compete agreement and, if you are working in the same department as a spouse, sibling or other immediate family member, you can continue to do so.

I am sure there will be more information forthcoming, but I wanted you to receive this news immediately.

It should be noted that these policies will apply for all new hires going forward.

Thanks to all of you who participated in today’s town hall. Clearly, Michael heard your concerns and considered them carefully.


The tipster goes on:

According to a reporter at the paper, Redding met with the Sarasota staff for 45 minutes and plans to visit the three other Florida papers now owned by Halifax tomorrow. The first question he took up, as relayed to him by Publisher McFarlin: What about the non-compete clause?

“We want to pour money into your career,” Redding said, “and as you get better, what we are not interested in is you becoming our competition. We want you to have long careers . . . and I’m sure many of you have been here 10, 20 years. It isn’t that you don’t trust us, that isn’t it at all. To the point that someone who is here now, and let’s say in the next 30 days or the next 60 day you sign the non-compete and then for some reason your job isn’t here, the last thing we’re going to do is tell you that you can’t go get a job here. We’re going to rescind that non-compete. That’s just not fair, that’s not how I would do it, that’s not how we think.”

Half an hour later, clarification was sought that the contract would be waived for the first 60 days (Halifax is also installing a 60-day probation period for all employees). “We have agreed with the [New York] Times that anyone no longer with the company within a certain period of time that they will receive a severance package paid in the same manner as the folks that we didn’t hire at close. So that piece is there. The second part is, as we are evaluating this, we’re getting questions and we want to be responsive to those questions. We want to re-evaluate if 60 days is the right number, maybe it is 90 days, maybe it is 120 days. We’re looking at that. We want to make sure that you have confidence in what you are signing. This is not a grab people, pin them to the ground and take advantage of them — that’s not the purpose of this document. I’m looking for feedback . . .”



  1. Barn Groover said:

    It should by now be clear that the owners of Halifax Media are engaged in jihad against traditional (i.e. liberal) journalism. To acquire an entire division of The New York Times is a wet dream of the far right. Notice that they steered the editorial and news pages of their first acquisition – the Daytona Beach News Journal – immediately rightward. Watchdog journalism was jettisoned and replaced by a relentless pro-business drumbeat. Do you think the same plans are not in place for the newly acquired papers? You will also notice the new company made no effort to communicate to the newsgathering staffs before the acquisitions. While there were no immediate layoffs, there were also no reassurances that Michael Redding and company have any respect whatsoever for their reporting staffs or even the mission of news reporting. That’s because they intend to use their reporters to reward their biggest advertisers and fill pages between the ads – nothing more and nothing less. Their two-year rule at the Daytona paper has been through coercion and intimidation, as foreshadowed in the new employee handbook: You are an at-will employee who can be fired at any time for any reason. Don’t forget it. None of the public statements by Halifax so far convey a respect for or intention to continue the traditions of an independent press. The strategy here, in addition to maximizing ad revenues and strengthening the value of the properties as marketing vehicles, is to eviscerate the power of low-paid and high-minded journalists so they can no longer hinder the agendas of the owners’ political and business cronies.

  2. Kathryn Quigley said:

    Well, this sounds less evil than before, so that’s good. I am thinking good thoughts for my former colleagues at the Daytona Beach News-Journal.

  3. wubbly said:

    Why would anyone get into this business after reading something like this? Clowns like this are rule and not the exception. You have no transferable skills as a journalist to other professions in case one day your not-terrible job becomes the property of an outfit like this. Attention kids: DO NOT GET IN THIS BUSINESS!!

  4. lucy jones said:

    The way they (Halifax) is treating their news reporters sounds very controlling. Coersion and intimidation,I hear? Sounds more like communism takeover-if some one does not know what the word communism is,just google it.