Friday, June 28, 2013

Star-Ledger Gives a N.J. 'Or Else' Ultimatum to Unions

Unless it exacts more than $9 million in concessions from unions, Advance Publications-owned The (Newark) Star-Ledger, the Garden State's largest newspaper and the nation's 16th largest daily, will cease publication by the end of 2013, Publisher Richard Vezza warned staffers in a letter this week.

Vezza said the Star-Ledger expects at least to match last year's $19.8 million in losses in 2013. His letter sets a Sept. 27 deadline to reach a settlement with unions that would involve their giving up the roughly $9 million the daily claims it could bank through outsourcing. Blaming sagging ad revenues and declining circulation that have plagued newspapers industry-wide, as well as the unique devastation wreaked on the N.J. economy by Hurricane Sandy, the Star-Ledger earlier this year shrank its newsroom workforce by 10 percent by slashing 34 jobs (see "TUOL" post 1/18/13).

Advance Publications is privately held by the Newhouse family and is not required to disclose publicly its earnings figures. The Star-Ledger (the household paper with which the devoted staff of "TUOL" grew up) has a daily circulation of more than 340,000, 160,000 of whom are digital subscribers, and a Sunday readership of more than 432,000, 140,000 of those being online viewers.

Management previously employed The Sopranos-like "or else" negotiating tactics in 2008 to win buyouts and concessions from drivers and mailers unions in 2008. Editorial staffers in the Star-Ledger newsroom are not unionized.

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