East Valley Tribune Layoffs Follow Approval of Freedom Communications' Bankruptcy-Driven Sale of Paper
The East Valley Tribune laid off about two dozen workers today, one day after a bankruptcy judge approved a plan to sell the struggling daily newspaper.
As we reported yesterday, the Colorado-based Thirteenth Street Media plans to buy the paper and other Arizona holdings of the Trib's parent company, Freedom Communications, for $2.05 million.
It doesn't seem like the sale will do much for Freedom, which still owes hundreds of millions of dollars to its creditors, but Thirteenth Street owner Randy Miller looks to be getting quite a bargain. A new printing press the paper bought in 2008 for $4 million is said to be part of the deal.
We're not sure whether Freedom or Miller approved today's layoffs, but we hear the cost-cutting move eliminated a number of longtime employees, including:
*Ed Taylor, a veteran business reporter who's been with the Tribune since Jimmy Carter was president.
*Edward Gately, business
*David Woodfill, business
*Mike Gossie, copy editor
*Gary Smith, copy editor
*Jess Harter, former Get Out editor,
*Blake Herzog, reporter
*Hayley Ringle, reporter
*Gary Grado, reporter
*Thomas Boggan, photographer
*Darryl Webb, photographer
*Ralph Freso, photographer
This leaves only 14 people in the newsroom, according to an article published today by the Phoenix Business Journal. The article says no layoffs occurred at the Daily News-Sun, a Freedom-owner paper in Sun City.
Layoffs have already decimated the ranks of employees at the Tribune. In late 2008, the paper dismissed nearly half of its staff as part of a plan to boost sagging profits. Trib editor Chris Coppola stepped down in early January and landed a job at the Arizona Republic. Another Freedom paper, the Ahwatukee Foothills News, lost its publisher and managing editor last year.
Meanwhile, Tribune publisher Julie Moreno and other Freedom execs raked in tens of thousands of dollars last year in bonuses.
The sale to Thirteenth Street, which may be finalized by the end of the month, reportedly doesn't include the Trib's iconic building near Country Club Drive and Main Street in downtown Mesa. That means the remaining staff faces more downsizing, at least in terms of office space.
Still unclear is what kind of newspaper the Trib will be in six months, or whether it will have an interest in chasing Pulitzers.
UPDATE: HeatCity.org has a slightly more-complete list of laid off workers, plus a list of editorial staff members who will be staying.
Heat City's Nick Martin also reports that Miller gave the remaining employees some details of a reorganization plan:
He told them the newspaper will have just one edition instead of its current four. That edition will carry the full East Valley Tribune moniker, which Freedom dropped from the print editions last year in favor of names like the Mesa Tribune and the Queen Creek Tribune.
The newspaper will also apparently push back into Tempe, a city it previously abandoned. One source said Miller plans to place about 30 newspaper racks throughout the city's downtown area. He will also continue to distribute the newspaper for free throughout the East Valley.