A sudden round of unannounced layoffs hit the Press-Register this morning, with at least eight members of the editorial staff getting the axe. Several were longtime staffers and names that should be familiar to readers.
The layoff meetings were apparently ongoing today, but as of noon we were told the list of those laid off included outdoor reporter Jeff Dute and photographers Mike Brantley and Mike Kittrell. Reporters Kelli Dugan, Angela Levins, Debbie Lord, Michael Finch and Tamara Ikenberg also were fired. There were also reportedly similar cuts at The Huntsville Times, Birmingham News and at AMG’s Tuscaloosa office on Tuesday, according to insiders.
P-R staffers told Lagniappe David Magee, AMG’s senior director of content was in town Tuesday and meeting with staffers as they were being laid off. Attempts to get any comment from AMG leadership, as usual, went unanswered. Lagniappe has been told severance packages were offered to those who lost their jobs, although terms were not clear.
In the past, P-R severance packages offered a week’s pay for every year of service. They have also included clauses preventing former employees from discussing terms and other details about the newspaper.
Some who work for the P-R/al.com in Mobile had feared a new round of layoffs was imminent when it was announced in June that the Newhouse-owned properties in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana were all going to be put together as one company called the Southeast Regional Media Group, and it would be overseen by former P-R publisher Ricky Mathews.
Mathews oversaw the most dramatic cuts at the P-R during his tenure and then handled the layoffs and reduction in print days at the Times-Picayune in New Orleans as publisher there. Many former and current employees consider him a company “axe man” who is used primarily to reduce employee costs as opposed to actually running the newspaper.
In January six editorial staffers were laid off at the P-R and over the past few months five more reporters and a content manager (aka editor) have also left. Baldwin County reporter Marc Anderson left the paper just last week to take a position with Brett/Robinson Realty as content manager of their marketing department. Police reporter Theresa Seiger is also reportedly leaving to take another job.
The latest layoffs mean at least 20 members of the editorial staff have either quit or been fired since January.
“It’s so devastating to see my former colleagues treated this way,” one former staffer said. “I’ve given up trying to understand the rationale behind these decisions.”