Layoffs at Lee papers as CEO gets $500,000 bonus

It was announced on Tuesday that Lee Enterprises CEO Mary Junck was given a $500,000 bonus for refinancing the bankrupt newspaper chain’s debt. On the same day, at least two Lee newspapers laid off staffers, including the sports editor at the Montana Standard. I called Gerry O’Brien — he edits the Standard and Helena Independent Record — and he refused to discuss the cuts. He also declined to tell me the size of his news staff.

Here’s just one comment posted below the Junck bonus story on my Facebook wall:

Tim Mullaney also wrote on my Facebook wall: “All [Junck] ever was was a decent ad-sales head. I worked for her in Baltimore, and she was no strategist even at the division level. That anyone made her a CEO in the first place is baffling — you could have thrown water balloons in the newsroom and hit 10 better candidates.”

Bill Reader wrote in comments on this site: “Newspaper companies used to condemn robber barons. Now they create them from within.”

It’s only fair to let Junck respond to her critics and explain why she deserves a $500,000 bonus, so I called her office and left a message. I’m waiting for her to return my call.

* Lee Enterprises refinancing results in $500,000 bonus for CEO
* Lee-owned newspapers in Montana lay off staffers
* January 2012: Junck named AP board chairman



  1. Stephen said:

    What Junck did in getting her bonus looks bad, but doesn’t really rub me the wrong way. She just made one mistake, albeit a huge one- She bought Pulitzer in early 2005. To be fair, the newspaper industry was still growing even at that late point and even many Pulitzer titles were growing circulation. The future in digital looked like the icing on top, not the kiss of death. After that calamity, nothing that Junck has done was going to be done any differently by another CEO. As for the bankruptcy, well, there was that, but it was a bankruptcy with no meaningful change in capital structure, minor shareholder dilution, no sale of assets. Basically a bankruptcy in name only. And keep in mind that Alden Global Capital had tried to bankrupt and sieze control of the company in 2011. Would a hedge fund have been nicer to Lee employees? Junck has been no superstar, but please put away the pitchforks and torches.

  2. Rich said:

    Now there are 56 more jobs lost at Lee’s papers in California (announced today). The timing for layoffs just following the bonus payments is impeccable. What happens if/when Lee ends up back in bankruptcy court when they cannot make these huge debt payments they have negotiated? I guess by then the bonus checks will be cashed!

  3. Betty Pardieck Graff said:

    Local newspaper, (San Diego County) North County Times, among others now to be printed at the P.E. in Riverside it was announced Sunday