The Record offers buyouts, kills recently launched section

The Record, New Jersey’s second-largest newspaper, is offering buyouts and folding its recently launched standalone Signature section.record

“Signature allowed so many of us to think about what we would do if we went a step further in our reporting, design, photographs and graphics,” writes Martin Gottlieb, who left the International Herald Tribune to become Record editor last January. “It makes sense to me to take the best of Signature … and feature them in the regular sections of the daily paper. As we do, there will be a measurable savings in newsprint costs.”

His memo warns that “the reduction in newsroom positions could involve some layoffs, but that is yet to be determined.”

Gottlieb’s note to his staff is after the jump.

To the staff:

North Jersey Media Group is undergoing a rigorous budget review in the face of the economic pressures that are confronting media companies across the country and that are compounded locally by continued high unemployment. The Record is a vibrant paper with an enduring commitment to high-quality journalism, strong circulation and a growing digital presence. Nonetheless, we are assessing operations to make up for shortfalls in revenue projections and increasing expenses, including significant benefit obligations.

The budget review is focusing on every department, including the newsroom. And while the belt-tightening may not approach that of other companies, it will be real and will result in a modest reduction of positions in the newsroom, as well as other initiatives. Every unit of North Jersey Media Group is looking for ways to grow revenue, reduce expenses, or both. In the newsroom, we have figured out how to save substantially on page count and newsprint while not compromising our mission. We are trimming expenses and not filling certain open positions.
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Our fundamental aim is to rebalance our operation in a measured way to account for economic realities while maintaining and even enhancing our core product, which thanks to our ownership and to you is one of the finest regional news reports in the country.

The reduction in newsroom positions could involve some layoffs, but that is yet to be determined. Before we analyze the need for that, we have decided to offer a voluntary severance program to eligible newsroom staffers to provide them the opportunity to resign from the company and receive severance benefits comparable to those provided under the standard NJMG severance package (a half week’s pay for every six months of service, capped at 12 weeks). To be eligible for the voluntary severance program, newsroom staffers must be at least 60 years of age and have at least 15 years of employment with the company. As provided by the company’s vacation policy, employees who resign will be eligible to receive their 2013 accrued, but unused, vacation time. This may prove to be attractive to employees who have been contemplating leaving the company. All staffers in this grouping will receive packages detailing the terms. Those eligible will have two weeks to apply. The company reserves the right to reject individual applications due to operational requirements.

The packages will be delivered at an informational meeting at 4 p.m. Wednesday in the 8th-floor AV room. Feel free to discuss the particulars with me, Doug Clancy and Susan Beard.

Once we are able to gauge the level of interest and tally the dollar value of our other initiatives, we will determine whether involuntary terminations are necessary, as regrettable as they may be.

But the need for some trimming is clear. To that end, I have decided to pull back from one of our most creative initiatives of the past year, our weekly Signature section. Through truly distinguished cover stories, brilliant design, photo layouts and graphics and features that explain how we live in North Jersey, Signature made its mark under the fine editing of Alan Finder. But as we look to enhance, rather than extend, our defining core of local news and features, it makes sense to me to take the best of Signature — Bill Ervolino’s excellent “Then and Now” column, those terrific cover stories and our superb graphics and photography — and feature them in the regular sections of the daily paper. As we do, there will be a measurable savings in newsprint costs.

Signature allowed so many of us to think about what we would do if we went a step further in our reporting, design, photographs and graphics. That spirit, guided by Alan, is out of the bottle. Let’s make sure it stays there and informs our day-to-day work. The weekly rotation established to generate contributions from a wide range of writers will remain in place. The front page will be among the beneficiaries of what’s to come.

As for Alan, he signed on for six months and is days from reaching that mark. This week’s will be the last Signature, but as he moves back to the many activities he put on hold to come here, he will leave a lasting mark — his signature, if you will. Join us in a toast to him, and the estimable effort he headed, on Friday after the 3:15 p.m. news meeting.

There’s a lot to digest in this note. Feel free to drop by my office if you want to discuss any aspect of it.

And thank you, once more, for making The Record the special place it always has been and will continue to be.

Best,

Marty

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