Lee-owned Wisconsin State Journal lays off staff

UPDATE: The State Journal reports 26 jobs were cut across the company. “In the State Journal newsroom, two full-time employees and one part-time employee were laid off and one vacant full-time job was closed down.”

EARLIER: A tipster told me this morning about layoffs at Lee Enterprises’ Wisconsin State Journal: “Three in the newsroom and 19 others at Capital Newspapers, the partnership company between the State Journal and the Capital Times. The other layoffs were in business, advertising etc.”

The tipster added:

Another noteworthy element: In the past, WSJ and the Cap Times have shed jobs through buyouts. That is apparently no longer the case. I believe these were the first straight-up layoffs.

Also, WSJ continues to shed reporting jobs but has even added editors in recent years. I don’t know where they believe this top-heavy approach is taking them.

I check the State Journal’s website and only found a story about 21 layoffs at Weather Channel-owned Weather Central. I asked State Journal editor John Smalley why his paper’s downsizing isn’t reported when another local media company’s is. His response:

Reason we didn’t report on it yet is that some of the necessary conversations with affected people around the company were still taking place this morning. I told the newsroom staff in our meeting yesterday that we’d be reporting on it today.

The numbers [my tipster passed along] are close but perhaps not precise. We’re working up the news brief now, and I’ll be happy to point you to that once it’s done.

Thanks, John, for your prompt response; other Lee editors I’ve contacted about layoffs ignored phone calls and emails or declined comment. Lee, of course, is the struggling newspaper chain that rewards its CEO with cash and stock bonuses for — well, the way I see it — cutting quality.

UPDATE FROM MY TIPSTER: “As Smalley indicated, apparently the number I was originally told was off. This is what departing WSJ reporter Clay Barbour (who is leaving for another job) wrote in a recent Facebook update:

“So very weird day yesterday. Getting ready to announce my departure from the State Journal and I learn the paper is getting rid of 17 people in the newspaper (three and 1/2) in the newsroom. Turns out my job was safe, but my leaving saved one person from the axe, since they will fill my position from within.”