Tribune Publishing Furloughs Staffers Due to ‘Profound’ Impact on Advertising

The media company had already issued pay cuts earlier this month

Tribune Publishing logo with skyline in background
Tribune Publishing is implementing widespread furloughs.
Headshot of Sara Jerde

Tribune Publishing, a media company that includes newspapers like Chicago Tribune, New York Daily News, The Baltimore Sun, and South Florida Sun Sentinel, told employees today in a companywide email that temporary and broad furloughs will be implemented.

In particular, non-unionized employees who earn an annual base salary between $40,000 and $67,000 will be temporarily furloughed for three weeks. Staffers will take that unpaid time off in one-week increments, between May and July.

“Despite strong engagement with our journalism, the impact on advertising has been profound,” Terry Jimenez, CEO and president of Tribune Publishing, told employees in the email obtained by Adweek. “Statewide stay-at-home orders have been extended beyond initial government orders, and as a result, we will need to take additional measures to ensure the financial stability of the company.”

Advertising budgets have taken a hit during the pandemic, an impact felt deeply by media companies, particularly at the local level among newspapers and alt-weeklies. Some publishers have turned to reducing pay instead of outright layoffs as they expect business to return by the end of the year, in the hopes that it comes back as quickly as it dried up.

Specifically, print media is expected to see a 25% loss in advertising sales this year, according to the most recent forecast from IPG Mediabrands-owned Magna Global.

Tribune Publishing already issued drastic action to address the effects of Covid-19 earlier this month when it cut pay up to 10% among non-unionized employees who make more than $67,000 per year.

At the time, it was reported by Chicago Tribune that Jimenez would also forego two weeks of pay and take a 10% decrease in his base salary. Jimenez reportedly earned a $575,000 annual base salary, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing in February.

Alden Global Capital, a private equity firm, already offered buyouts to employees after it became the largest shareholder in Tribune Publishing last year.

“Along with the rest of the advertising industry, we are seeing significant declines in advertising revenue,” said Max Reinsdorf, a spokesman for Tribune Publishing, in a statement. “While we have been aggressive in reducing outside costs, continued business closures and the subsequent loss of marketing partners have led us to reduce compensation expenses as a last resort to offset these ongoing revenue losses.”

@SaraJerde Sara Jerde is publishing editor at Adweek, where she covers traditional and digital publishers’ business models. She also oversees political coverage ahead of the 2020 election.