OC Register Parent Company to Offer Buyouts So That Layoffs (Hopefully) Don’t Come

An email announcing a buyout plan just went out to all employees at the Southern California News Group (SCNG), the parent company of the Orange County Register, Long Beach Press Telegram, Riverside Press-Enterprise and basically every daily paper left in Southern California not owned by the Los Angeles Times.

This is slightly better news that what sources had told the Weekly: that “massive” layoffs were going to hit the Register and its sister papers. Those sources were working off a bombshell memo by CFO Dan Scofield dated July 11 that someone stupidly left on a printer in the Register newsroom and that had gotten around the office. The faux pas was confirmed by SCNG executive editor Frank Pine…YIKES!!! However, Pine told the Weekly that layoffs are not planned for the moment—buyouts are.

His email is below. If you’re tl;dr, fuck off. Okay, I’ll sum it up: buyouts to be offered by August, and SCNG hopes enough get taken by the end of September so that no one needs to get laid off.

Now, the full email:

This morning, we held editorial staff meetings throughout SCNG to talk about our current editorial planning and to share some details of initiatives we will be implementing in coming weeks.

It’s important to note that we are always seeking new and creative ways to improve our digital newsgathering and to increase our audience. Over the past year, those efforts – your efforts – have resulted in some very impressive achievements and significant gains in digital audience. At the end of June, monthly uniques were up nearly 40 percent from last year, and sessions and page views were up 30 percent. At the same time, our newly formed SCNG social media team is already having an impact, with social sessions up more than 50 percent from last year, and we’re reaching the audience we need, with big gains in local users (up more than 35 percent) and younger users (up nearly 40 percent). These are some of the best numbers in all of Digital First Media, and they are a testament to your hard work and dedication. I cannot thank you all enough.

Nevertheless, the efforts currently underway are particularly noteworthy as they will result in significant changes to the way we operate.

As you all know all too well, our entire industry continues to grapple with declining print revenue trends even as we develop new business models for digital. Consequently, we must continually find ways to operate more efficiently as print revenues continue to decline. This challenge is not unique to us. It’s one that our entire industry faces.

We’re looking closely at what is already working on our sites and with our audience, and we’re also looking at what is clearly not working. We’re also researching current trends and studying what has and has not worked for other media companies. We are developing our future content plans carefully and thoughtfully, based on data and research.

We expect to roll out a restructured newsroom plan over the next couple of months. The plan will include an even more aggressive emphasis on digital, a commitment to data-based decision making and new ways of approaching breaking news, enterprise and beat reporting.

As we reorganize, we will also be seeking ways to reduce expenses in line with revenues. This is critical to ensuring our business remains viable in the years to come.

In the next few weeks, we will be offering a voluntary separation package. We are hopeful there will be enough volunteers for us to avoid layoffs, and that as part of this process, we are also able to reassign staff and hire for positions critical to fulfilling our digital strategy.

It’s too early to say precisely how many people or positions will be affected. The goal will be based on the financial performance of the company as well as our ability to identify other potential savings. We anticipate making a more formal announcement of the voluntary severance package with all of the pertinent details in August. We then expect it will take a few weeks for people to decide whether they want to participate and for us to determine how we will go forward. We hope to complete the process no later than the end of September.

While these are very difficult decisions to make, they are necessary if we are to remain a stable and profitable business, especially in the face of continued declines in revenue. We are undertaking this effort to better position the company for continued growth.

We will continue to provide updates and more information as plans are further developed.

As always, thank you for your continuing commitment to our organization and to our readers. We greatly appreciate all of you and all that you do.

If you have questions, please ask.

The announcement came just days after a cheery chainwide email by another SCNG exec that concluded with what now seems a cruel tease: that the bosses would “evaluate the possibility of merit salary increases beginning early next calendar year provided that we are on track with financial and other targets, and provided that the local economic conditions, local compensation practices and local performance can support such increases?.”

Wonder if that’s just an extra umbrella while people rearrange deck chairs on the Titanic?

“While yes, we do face many challenges,” that email concluded. “we are also well positioned for future success. Our company is fortunate to have a deeply talented and dedicated team committed to building a strong and sustainable business that will allow us to continue fulfilling our mission and serving our communities for years to come.

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