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Southern RI-based Indepedent Newspaper group guts staff.

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by schiezainc, Jan 12, 2012.

  1. schiezainc

    schiezainc Well-Known Member

    I know we've got a good chunk of New England folk around here so I figured I'd post this up here both for anyone who have some ties to the place and in the event some kind of job opens up there in the future for reference.

    So, the South County, Rhode Island- based Independent Newspapers today (Not to be confused with Southern Rhode Island Newspapers) held one-on-one mandatory meetings with all its staff today and, from what I can confirm right now, slashed its staff just about in half.

    Right now they've cut one full-time sports reporter, one photographer and a part-time news reporter and those are just the ones I can confirm. The staff wasn't that big to begin with and now, if I'm correct, they'll attempt to put together two weekly newspapers with a grand total of one photographer, two news reporters, two news editor who do the bulk of pagination and one sports editor who is going to have to write everything, lay it all out and potentially take all the photos. Can't confirm any other cuts right now but, from what I hear, it's not pretty.

    Oh, and they're closing their main office in Wakefield and consolidating everything in the company's daily paper shop located in Newport.

    Just a bad day for my chain's competition and I've kind of got mixed feelings on it. On the one hand, I feel awful for the people let go. While I understand the logic behind it from a business standpoint, they cut some really good and talented individuals. On the other hand, anything bad that happens to my competition is a good thing for me.

    Still, for the first time, I think I feel worse about what this means for the people involved than what it means for me.

    Hmm, guess I'm growing up.

    Good luck to those involved and may this be the last layoff-related post on this board (for at least a while).
  2. sgreenwell

    sgreenwell Well-Known Member

    They have at least three full-time news reporters for the two papers - two for SCI, one for NEI. Not that it ultimately matters that much, since people losing jobs sucks regardless of how you rationalize it, but they still have a larger and more experienced staff overall at both papers as compared to their competition, which prints twice a week vs. once.
  3. Stitch

    Stitch Active Member

    Why is there a lot of competition n Rhode Island? You'd think each of these chains would retreat into their own areas.
  4. sgreenwell

    sgreenwell Well-Known Member

    The Big State Daily has mostly retreated from the suburbs in a slow process the past 15 years, which has given a lot of the smaller weeklies room to breathe. That being said, there isn't direct competition in a ton of places - two adjacent towns (Narragansett and South Kingstown) are covered by two Patch sites and two different weekly newspapers, one that prints Wed + Fri, one that prints Thurs. There is a similar battle for East Greenwich and North Kingstown, which are a little bit north.

    The Independent chain only has those two papers, although its parent company also has a daily over in Newport that also includes news from three other towns. And those four places are skipped by the other weekly chain (SRIN, which used to be owned by JRC I believe). The competitive environment is a lot more barren up north, IIRC, with most towns only serviced by a single weekly, or by a weekly shared with other towns.
  5. bigpern23

    bigpern23 Well-Known Member

    The staff was cut by 25 percent, not half. From 12 to nine between two papers covering four towns.

    They will not have dedicated photographers as the remaining photographer on the staff will now be asked to take over the duties of the part-time East Greenwich reporter as well as take photos, so essentially, the North East paper will still have two reporters.

    Reporters will now be required to take their own photographs for the most part.

    The sports editor is the one who is probably screwed worst, as he now must cover five high schools, the University of Rhode Island and lay out two sections weekly and take his own photos. I'm not sure if they will give his layout duties to someone else, which really seems to be the only feasible way to ensure he still actually gets to cover some sports.

    From conversations I've had with people over there, there don't appear to be anymore cuts coming, at least not in the immediate future.
  6. BillyT

    BillyT Active Member

    I suppose the good news is that they are still open.

    This is the old stomping grounds, so I am curious about some things:

    How old is this chain? I was last really in Rhode Island in the 1980s.

    Is the group that owns/owned the Warwick Beacon still in business (I still have my first bylined, which was with them.)

    Is Westerly running any weeklies?

    Is The Day running one in Westerly?
  7. sgreenwell

    sgreenwell Well-Known Member

    I didn't say they cut half the staff - that was schiez.
  8. sgreenwell

    sgreenwell Well-Known Member

    1) I think the Independent started in the mid-1990s, first in South County (SK and Gansett) and then opened the Northeast Indy (NK mostly with some EG as well). They generally do really solid work on the news side, and they've supplanted the SRIN / JRC chain as a news source for most. IMO, the sports section lags a little behind SRIN/JRC, but the gap in quality isn't as profound as the one between the news sections of the two. (The news staff at SRIN/JRC is a revolving door.)

    2) The Beacon group still exists, although I'm not real familiar with their workings, since it's the one chain in Rhode Island I don't think I've ever gotten a byline in or paycheck from.

    3) Westerly runs free mailer weeklies for Charlestown, Richmond / Wood River Junction and Exeter, but they're seen as somewhat secondary products. They have a pretty good editor overseeing them, and part-time staffs at each. They're a bit more serious with The Mystic River Press, and their Westerly and CT coverage in general, since (I think) they see the papers out there as more of their competition.

    4) I believe The Day tried to do something in Westerly a few years ago, but it failed, and now Westerly is solely the domain of the Sun. Westerly's proximity to CT (you have to drive through 95 in CT as opposed to RI) makes most view it as kind of an outsider RI town.
  9. bigpern23

    bigpern23 Well-Known Member

    Yes, I actually meant to indicate that I agreed with your post and that it was more accurate. Sorry for the misunderstanding.
  10. schiezainc

    schiezainc Well-Known Member

    Yeah, sorry, I'm only vaguely familiar with their news operation as I only rarely see any of their reporters.

    I'd agree with greenwell that their news staff is solid. They kick my ass in the North Kingstown area on a regular basis (Though I will say it's a lot closer a competition than the gap that exists between their South County coverage and my chain's coverage in that area).

    I didn't know they were forcing the photographer the become a quasi reporter. That sucks.

    And I give the sports editor three months before he goes insane and bails out of there.

    I was talking to a coworker last night and we agreed that the only real way to do it is to consolidate that position with the sports positions in Newport and spread the workload. Short of that, they're going to have to give him a pretty decent freelance budget or he's going to have to focus solely on things that he can use as crossover between the two papers.
  11. bigpern23

    bigpern23 Well-Known Member

    I doubt you'd see them consolidate the position with Newport, but sharing content and coordinating coverage with Newport might be the only chance they have to get anything close to decent coverage.

    The higher ups are going to think this is a great idea right up until playoffs begin. When one out of five playoff games is getting covered and parents start to realize the paper is doing a lousy job covering their kids, that's when they see how detrimental this move really is.

    Will they care? Probably not.
  12. schiezainc

    schiezainc Well-Known Member

    That's the thing I've been dealing with at my chain for years. I seriously doubt the people above me even look at our paper, let alone care about it, outside of looking at the budget sheet to see what the profit margin is.

    In fact, I think the only time anyone above me EVER says anything related to the actual paper is if someone calls to complain about something.

    I wouldn't be surprised if the bosses there don't even notice what will surely be an epic fail of a sports section if the editor there doesn't, at the least, get the freelance/crossover help he needs to put out even a somewhat decent section.
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