Dallas Observer's Parent Company Announces Pay Cuts and Layoffs

Twice today I've been asked about several posts on The Latest Word, one of our sister blogs out of Denver, referring to layoffs and pay cuts taking place throughout the Village Voice Media chain. The Dallas Observer, of course, is among the 15 papers in the chain, formerly known as New Times Inc.

Specifically, this is the post to which inquiring minds are referring, one that contains a memo that landed in our in-boxes on New Year's Eve in which New Times founders Mike Lacey and Jim Larkin announced 15-percent pay reductions for "all VVM senior managers and officers, including Larkin and Lacey"; 10-percent pay cuts for all VVM publishers and editors; and the company's decision to no longer match money put into our 401-K plan.

Lacey and Larkin also write that "unfortunately, this year we have found it necessary to make staff reductions and have placed all staff openings on hold." Westword, The Village Voice and other papers in the chain have indeed laid off staffers in recent days. The Observer, operating with its smallest staff in years, has thus far not suffered any personnel losses; Kimberly Thorpe, hired as a staff writer to replace the recently departed Jesse Hyde (now managing editor at our sister paper in Miami), begins next week. Which is not to say cuts of some kind aren't coming to Dallas sooner than later; we're well aware of what's what.

The entirety of Lacey and Larkin's memo follows after the jump. --Robert Wilonsky

December 31, 2008

To all Village Voice staffers:

It's no secret that the chickens have come home to roost from the George Bush economy of the past eight years. We have all felt the downturn at Village Voice Media operations and, as you know, have been trimming expenses since December of 2007

Unfortunately, this year we have found it necessary to make staff reductions and have placed all staff openings on hold.

We are also going to take these additional measures effective January 1, 2009:

1) All VVM senior managers and officers, including Larkin and Lacey, are taking 15% pay reductions.

2) VVM Publishers and Editors are taking 10% pay reductions until our revenues begin to grow again.

3) We will suspend the Village Voice Media match into our 401-K plan. The plan will still remain open and we urge you to take advantage of the tax deferred personal savings advantages.

We hope that these measures will be the last steps we have to take until our business improves, however will continue to be watchful as 2009 progresses.

We believe in our local publishing and local digital businesses. It is our conclusion that the downturn in weekly publishing is largely cyclical and that as daily newspapers continue their decline, we will have numerous publishing opportunities in the markets we serve.

Many of you know that Village Voice Media digital businesses are growing and expanding quickly. As this current economic nightmare ends, Village Voice Media will be well positioned for the future in both digital and print.

We have navigated tough times before and although this seems the roughest stretch we've ever seen, we are confident that the content Village Voice Media operations produce and market daily will carry the day in whatever format the future might serve, print or digital.

We appreciate the effort each of you make to insure our success every day. Should you have any comments or questions please feel free to contact your publisher or either of us below.

Thank you,

Jim Larkin

Michael Lacey