'Financial Times' Struggles, Pushes Unpaid Leave

FTThe list of newspapers using unpaid leave to cut costs got a venerable addition this week. The Financial Times of London is asking employees to take three-day weekends without pay on the extra day, according to The Guardian, which first reported the news. The company is also encouraging employees to "buy" up to a week of extra leave every year. For now, the policy is only voluntary, so employees can continue full-time if they choose.

The move indicates that the recessionary forces squeezing American newspapers are also being felt globally by high-caliber business-focused pubs, including FT, its sister magazine the Economist and The Wall Street Journal.

Earlier this decade, the category seemed to suffer fewer negative effects from Internet competition, but their competitive advantages--especially their audience of well-heeled exectives who control corporate spending decisions--are less meaningful when the economy is in freefall.



The broad retrenchment in ad spending is also reflected in recent staff cuts and reorganizations at The Wall Street Journal. In the first week of February, Dow Jones--owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.--laid off 14 employees and left 11 vacant positions unfilled, for a total of 25 positions cut.

American newspapers have also made increasing use of unpaid leave to cut costs without trimming staff--suggesting that publishers feel they have cut staff to the bare minimum required to maintain operations. Last week, Media General said all employees have to take 10 days of unpaid leave in 2009, including four by the end of March.

In January, Gannett said it will require thousands of employees to take a week off without pay. A month before that, The Seattle Times asked approximately 500 of its non-unionized employees to take a week's unpaid leave.

Unpaid leave is just one of the unusual measures taken by newspapers that are struggling to keep them viable. The last year has also seen newspapers forming new content-sharing partnerships. Last week, five newspapers in New York and New Jersey, including The New York Daily News, unveiled a content-sharing club called the Northeast Consortium. Previously, The Washington Post and Baltimore Sun announced a local content-sharing deal in December. Also, McClatchy Co. is sharing foreign news stories with The Christian Science Monitor. Last year, eight Ohio newspapers formed their own news-sharing service.

Next story loading loading..