Belo Bigwigs Mum on Staff Reduction Specifics, Other Changes

Categories: Media

I left a message earlier today for Bob Mong, president and editor of The Dallas Morning News, for further details concerning this morning's announcement that, beginning immediately, A.H. Belo will reduce its workforce by 500 employees spread amongst its four newspapers. Mong, who was relatively forthcoming with Unfair Park during the last round of buyouts and layoffs at The News in the fall of 2006, didn't respond. Instead, Maribel Correa -- who bears the rather unwieldy title of Director of Investor Relations, Communications and Financial Planning and Analysis for A. H. Belo Corporation -- returned Unfair Park's call, as "this is a corporate matter."

The most obvious question today is: How many full-time employees does A.H. Belo expect to lose from The Dallas Morning News -- specifically, from a newsroom still recovering the decision in 2006 to gut the newsroom by 30 percent? A Providence Journal memo says that Belo property expects to lose "up to 54 workers by September 12"; Ron Redfern, Press-Enterprise's publisher, was less forthcoming in this morning's memo to his staff. Correa says Belo has not and will not "disclose details of the breakout" by property. (For what it's worth, Ed Bark, part of the '06 exodus, writes today: "It's very safe to assume that at least 350 of those positions will be carved from the DMN.") She also insists the company doesn't know how many of the buyouts -- and, if necessary, layoffs -- will come from the News' newsroom, "because it's voluntary ... It's something we'll know better by the end of the third quarter."

Of this much A.H. Belo is sure: "It's fair to make the assumption the bulk will come from The Dallas Morning News. That's a very safe assumption, as it is the largest of the newspapers."

She also will not say which pieces of real estate Belo is looking to part with, only that A.H. Belo's chairman, president and chief executive officer Robert Decherd is "bringing in a real estate firm to evaluate assets that can be best monetized. That's something being worked on currently."

Correa was a little stunned by the next two questions: When will Quick go weekly, as Eric Celeste noted on FrontBurner today? And: What, exactly, does A.H. Belo hope to accomplish with Briefing, which will litter the lawns of folks making $75,000 annually who've already decided they don't want the full-length version of the paper, much less a stripped-down take?

Regarding Quick, Correa was a little taken aback: "I am not sure what the publisher [Alison Draper] said." When informed of what the former Dallas Observer publisher told Celeste, she said only, "I wouldn't be able to talk about that at this time." As for Briefing, Correa noted: "We've very excited about it." And, the launch date for the single-section freebie has been moved from August 22 to August 27.

I just spoke with her again, about 30 minutes after our first interview, and she said she's "working on" getting someone to talk further about Briefing and Quick. We will update accordingly. --Robert Wilonsky


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