Is the ProJo really this hard up?

Sep 18, 2012

The ProJo, which is cutting employees once again, is really penny-pinching with this one. The state’s largest newspaper is ending the `Papers for Patients’  program, according to a letter from Lori Gardnier, director of consumer sales for the ProJo, to hospital officials.

Under the Papers for Patients program, vacationing Journal subscribers could elect to have their newspapers sent to patients who were confined to the hospital. When the vacations were over, the newspapers would revert back to the subscriber. Yes, the newspaper business is in the economic doldrums, but this seems extreme.

Of course, after the A.H. Belo Co. management signed its last cost-cutting contract with the Providence Newspaper Guild, top executives got more than a $1 million in bonuses, despite the plunging company revenues. According to Ted Nesi, the eagle-eyed WRPI-TV blogger, Belo’s ceo, Robert Decherd, got a 25 percent increase to $600,000 annually despite a 45 percent decline in the company’s stock price in 2011.  More recently Belo announced a 1-time dividend for December and said the company plans to buy back up to 1 million shares in company stock.

Meanwhile, ProJo management has not given the guild a firm number of how many employees it needs to take the most recent buyout to avert layoffs in Providence. This situation has created high anxiety in the Fountain Street newsroom as journalists worry about how far down the seniority list a layoff could go.