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The parent company of the Austin American-Statesman is reportedly asking some employees to accept voluntary buyouts.


Gannett, the largest newspaper company in the country with 250 publications, sent letters to employees starting Monday with terms for voluntary buyouts, according to Poynter, a journalism industry news source. The buyouts are not offered to every employee, although the impact is felt across company departments—not just in editorial.

Anyone who received a voluntary buyout offer has until next Tuesday to decide, according to a company HR email obtained by Jack Craver, editor of The Austin Politics Newsletter and freelance writer for Austin City Hall news.

But the decision may already be made for anyone who received a buyout offer, according to one editor who spoke anonymously with Poynter.

"Letters will be going to people picked out for it, and … basically if you get the letter, you are toast," they told Poynter.

The typical buyout offers one week of severance per year of service and a small bonus, Poynter reported. The process mirrors similar voluntary buyouts from Gatehouse Media, the former owner of the Statesman before it merged with Gannett last year.

CEO Mike Reed, who also led Gatehouse before the merger, announced the buyouts to staff last week in a virtual town hall. While doing so, he insisted that Gannett still aspires to grow newsroom staff in the second half of 2020, as promised in his last public quarterly earnings call.

However, past trends have convinced Statesman employees that more cuts are on the way. In April, the Statesman staff, among other Gannett staffers, experienced furloughs. And in the same month, the local newspaper saw seven of its journalists get laid off.

"My guess is layoffs will follow if not enough people take buyouts," one Statesman staffer anonymously told Craver.

Reed recently told Poynter he would be "happy" if few newsroom employees accept buyouts. However, not all those who accept buyouts may ultimately leave. Instead, Tuesday's deadline will help Gannett narrow the list of voluntary buyouts to potentially approve.

"[Gannett] will determine who is approved for participation based on a variety of business factors," human resources chief Samantha Howland wrote in a memo obtained by Poynter.

The ultimate outcomes for voluntary buyouts will be announced Nov. 6, according to Poynter, and be effective by Dec. 1. The company has not announced how many staff it is targeting for voluntary buyouts.

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