In an extensive update today on the cuts at Advance Publications’ Alabama newspapers, Poynter Institute media writer Steve Myers gives some fresh details about the company’s cuts in other newsrooms in the state. Meyers writes:
In Mobile, perhaps 16 of about 70 people are left in the newsroom, according to a source there. Huntsville got the worst of it: 15 people remain out of 53 in the newsroom, a 72 percent reduction. Overall in Huntsville, 102 of 149 people lost their jobs. Those cuts at the papers come after two rounds of buyouts already had thinned staff. (All sources asked to remain anonymous because they’re worried about keeping their severance or the jobs they were offered Tuesday.)
Part of those steep cuts can be attributed to layout and design employees. Production jobs will be consolidated in Birmingham, where the company will compose pages for its three Alabama newspapers. Also, The Huntsville Times will be printed in Birmingham and shipped back to that city.
Despite the cuts, Mobile Press-Register editor Mike Marshall told Poynter that the three newspapers would not lose their autonomy or ability to cover news.
Speaking of the situation in Mobile, Marshall said, “I would disagree that it’s a bureau that’s tethered to some central organization. It will be autonomous.”
The Mobile newsroom, which will have about half the current staff, “will be a hyperlocal operation.” The staff “will cover the hell out of local news.”
After the transition this fall, Marshall will serve as statewide opinion director. Last month he became the target of criticism after the Press-Register described the cuts and digital focus at Alabama papers as “Exciting changes for our readers.” Marshall later told Poynter that he might have gotten carried away in the moment.
At least some of the reporting positions would no longer be salaried, but instead pay hourly, so they could be “on call” 24/7. Also, our sources say, some portion of their pay may be based on the number of clicks their content receives. Health benefits would also reportedly “change for the worse,” according to insiders.