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Media General Goes With Employee Furloughs: 10 Unpaid Days in '09

Media Generals WVTM/Birmingham

Media General's WVTM/Birmingham

Media General confirmed the rumors today, with word that “despite aggressive sales initiatives and significant cost reductions already implemented, we need to build in additional expense savings to offset the revenue shortfalls we anticipate,” in the decidedly corporate words of Marshall Morton, Media General's CEO.  To put in words more commonly floated around television newsrooms, you just got two weeks off, whether you want 'em--or can afford 'em.  No pay.

Media General owns 19 local television stations, including WFLA/Tampa, WVTM/Birmingham, WSAV/Savannah, and WJAR/Providence.  Employees will be forced to take ten unpaid days, including four days off before the end of March, according to the Associated Press.  The AP reports the company has already cut costs by $19 million dollars by suspending matching payments to employees' 401(k) retirement plans.

Media General's WSAV/Savanahh

The furloughs follow a round of corporate layoffs across several Media General stations over the last few months, including 80 positions cut in Florida last November, and on-air cuts in Birmingham and Charleston just weeks ago.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the furloughs are mandatory for all non-union, non-contract employees, though union and contract employees will be asked to "voluntarily" participate in the ten no work, no pay days.


"Sudden, Devastating:" Media General Layoffs Hit Birmingham, Charleston

Media General's corporate budget cutting hit two Southern markets Thursday, with employees cut at WCBD/Charleston and WVTM/Birmingham.

WCBD anchor Warren Peper tells the Post and Courier "I'm done.  I'm no longer employed.  It is sudden and it is devastating, but it's very awkward for me to bemoan my situation.  Many others are losing jobs in the Low Country and around the country."

Warren Peper/WCBD

Warren Peper/WCBD

The extent of the layoffs at WCBD remains unclear, but Peper told the charleston.net he believed at least one other newsroom employee was cut, a photographer.

In Birmingham, Media General's WVTM laid off ten, across news, sales and marketing, but no on-air positions were affected. VTM GM Gene Kirkconnell told Birmingham News TV writer Alec Harvey:  "As a result of the continued business recession, WVTM has been affected by lower advertising spending.  Parting with valued employees is difficult."  Kirkconnell said no more layoffs were anticipated.

FULL DISCLOSURE:  Gene and I worked together at WVTM years ago as the nightside reporter/photog team;  he's a fantastic guy and close friend.  If anybody feels lousy about putting people out of work, it's him.


Latest Layoffs: Lee, Peters Among 15 Cut in Birmingham

The Allbritton budget cutting that swept through Washington's WJLA and Little Rock's KATV hit the Heart of Dixie Friday, with 15 layoffs at WBMA/Birmingham. (Initially, station officials had said 20 jobs were cut, but the number was revised downward later in the day, amid the obvious confusion and emotion inside the station)

Reporter Melissa Lee and weather anchor Brian Peters were the only talent cut, according to the Birmingham Newswbma_midday, which quoted ABC 33/40 General Manager Mike Murphy as saying ""It's a very difficult time. We regret that it had to take place."

The newspaper said Murphy cited decreasing advertising revenues as the major reason for the layoffs, but he declined to comment further.