By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Hard times continue at CNHI

The pain keeps on coming at CNHI, a Birmingham, Ala.-based newspaper chain that owns four Massachusetts dailies: the Eagle-Tribune of North Andover, the Daily News of Newburyport, the Salem News and the Gloucester Daily Times.

On the heels of a holiday furlough several months ago, Yvette Northcutt, the company’s vice president of human resources, is now telling employees they must take five unpaid days off between April 1 and June 30.

CNHI, as you may know, exists mainly to provide Alabama schoolteachers with a comfortable retirement. Those of us who live on the North Shore or the Merrimack Valley can ponder that the next time we wonder why an important local event didn’t get covered.

The full text of Northcutt’s memo follows:

We have chosen to implement reduced work schedules for hourly employees and reduced work schedules and pay reductions for salaried employees in the second quarter of 2010. The details are described below:

  • We will implement a reduced work schedule for hourly employees during the second quarter of 2010. All hourly employees must take five days off without pay between April 1, 2010 and June 30, 2010. It is expected that no work will be done during this time. This applies to full and part-time employees. Part-time employees’ work schedules will be reduced on a prorated basis. These days must be taken during the second quarter, and regular vacation, personal and sick days may not be substituted for these unpaid days.
  • A reduced schedule will also be implemented for salaried employees during the second quarter with a corresponding reduction in pay. Salaried employees already affected by the first-quarter pay reduction will simply see their current base salary roll forward. The second-quarter pay reduction will be applied over all pay dates occurring during the second quarter. In turn, salaried employees must take five days off between April 1, 2010 and June 30, 2010. Under this plan, the days off will not reduce the employees’ existing allotment of regular vacation, personal and sick days. Regular vacation, personal and sick days may not be substituted for these additional days off.
  • We are asking our unions to voluntarily agree to similar arrangements for the employees they represent. If our unions agree, this will help us avoid future layoffs.
  • In order to ensure staffing needs are met, these off days must be planned and approved in advance. Please submit the attached Request for Second Quarter Days Off form to your manager by March 15, 2010.

Thank you again for your hard work, dedication and support. Please contact Human Resources if you have any questions.

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  1. L.K. Collins


    Isn’t the alternative no paper at all?

  2. My husband had to take 15 unpaid (furlough) days off last year. And I had to take two cuts in pay that amounted to almost 25% of my salary. We did that without complaint since it meant a) we got to keep our jobs, and b) coworkers weren’t laid off.

    I think that the newspaper biz, so far, has gotten off pretty easy. Obviously, things need to turn around for this industry, but they can’t expect to skate while employees in other sectors are taking ones for the team.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Kathy: I think it’s unfair to say that newspaper employees have gotten off easy. Folks at places like GateHouse and CNHI were grossly underpaid to begin with. But it’s fair to say that most people in the news business believe the economy has been uniquely awful to them, not quite understanding that it’s bad all over. As we’ve been told repeatedly, this is the worst economy since the 1930s.

  3. Mike Stucka

    Kathy: I’m not sure anyone is skating.

    I worked at one of those CNHI papers for much of last year; I faced 10 days of furloughs. I learned of the first round as I woke up from a post-surgery nap.

    I was able to find another journalism job, a miracle in itself, and almost waltzed into another round of furloughs. A gentleman who’d been hired just before I was did get the furloughs based on his hire date. Salary freezes or cuts, slashed benefits and tons of layoffs have been the norms.

    Take a look at There’s a way to look by years — 2009 had about 15,000 newspaper folk lose their jobs. 2008 was about 16,000. Keep in mind this is not a definitive list.

    Compare as you will. As Dan said, the pay has never been good. Some folks’d compare to teachers, who face long hours and lots of stress, work in an intellectually challenging job, often have advanced degrees, generally can offer gripes about the lack of internal support and resources, and are often seen as voluntarily forgoing some pay in the interests of a kind of community service. You can dispute any of all of that if you’d like.

    But fact is there’s a metric buttload of veteran reporters who still earn far less than the starting salary of teachers, and have far lower benefits as well.

    Again, you can dispute the comparison. And I mean no slight to teachers or reporters or anyone, especially as a reporter son of teachers.

  4. Kett Jonas

    CNHI should have hard times. They hire idiots for publishers and directors.

    If they would clean up the newspapers of lazy employees, especially in the sales department and hire managers that know something about managing and not pill popping, cocaine snorting addicts, their newspapers might stand a better chance of surviving.

    You take a screaming raging crazy woman conducting a sales meeting and then ask yourself are you motivated to go out and sell advertising….not to mention her throwing things at the employees.

    Wake up CNHI!!!

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