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The Oregonian Newspaper Takes Cost Cutting Measures

Newspapers across the country are suffering as the economy stumbles and people change the way they get their daily news.  Portland’s daily, The Oregonian, is no exception and Monday it told staff it was imposing a series of cost-cutting measures.  Kristian Foden-Vencil reports.

News in the newspaper industry is bad.

The Rocky Mountain Paper closed recently after 150 years in print. The Seattle Post Intelligencer can only be found on-line now.  And Portland’s Willamette Week has instituted an 8 percent pay cut.

So the staff at The Oregonian knew cuts were coming.  

Nobody from the Oregonian's management responded to a request for an interview.  But in a letter to employees Publisher Fred Stickel said that the Oregonian lost “several million dollars” last year — and doesn’t have enough income to cover expenses this year. Stickel says quote:

 "The economic crisis has dramatically worsened the precarious financial situation facing the media industry, our Company, and many of our advertising customers."

To fix the problem he announced a 15 percent pay cut for himself and other top staff, and a five or 10 percent cut for other employees. Some part-time workers are also being laid-off, while other staff will be required to take four furlough days over the next few months.

After a meeting with managers, Darlene West walked outside to take a break.

She has worked in the newspaper’s classified section for 33 years.

Darlene West: “It was no surprise, we see it all over the country.”

She says that in a way, the cuts were a relief – because everybody knew something was coming.

Darlene West: “We can dream up all kinds of things in our own mind than it ever turn out to be.”

At least she still has a job, she says.

One of the biggest changes announced Monday, is a freeze in The Oregonian’s pension plan. Staff will no longer be able to pay into it. Instead, they’re being encouraged to sign-up for the company’s 401k plan.  And as an added incentive, managers say they're increasing the 401K match.

Darlene West: “Oh I think that’s fine, I think that’s great. I’ve been at the Oregonian long enough that I have already set my own future plans in place years ago and I’m going to be fine.”

Other staff outside the newspaper building declined to speak with OPB.

The Oregonian is a division of ‘Advance Publications,’ a privately owned communications company headed by The Newhouse family.

It’s considering drastic changes for five of its Michigan papers and it’s switching the Ann Arbor News to online-only.

Staff at The Oregonian were told their paper will remain a 7-day-a-week printed publication.  

Many companies are looking at their defined pension plans in this economic downturn.

Marc Fovinici, of Ferguson Wellman Capital Management, says how an employee views a pension change from a defined plan to a 401K, depends largely on their character.

Marc Fovinci: “If you’re an employee there and you feel somewhat comfortable with investing, you maybe very happy to invest and think you’re going to be ahead of the game doing the investing yourself. However, if you’re not comfortable investing and you’re more risk averse, certainly having a defined payment that you know is going to be there when you retire is going to be preferable for you.”

Meanwhile, another paper in the region announced changes.  The Argus Observer in Eastern Oregon will suspending it’s Monday deliveries starting in April.