AP Offers Buyouts To 363 Staffers

Goodbye and Keep GoldThe Associated Press has been offering buyouts to up to 363 longtime employees in the last few weeks, per a notice posted on the Web site of the News Media Guild, which represents many AP workers. The buyout offers are the latest in a series of cutbacks at the news service, squeezed by the sharp decline in the fortunes of newspapers, its main customers.

The buyouts were not publicized until Editor & Publisher reported them Tuesday.

Employees who are eligible for the buyout offers include 263 staffers at domestic offices in the U.S., as well as 100 management staff. Technology workers have until June 22 to accept the buyout, while all other employees have until July 13.

To be eligible, an employee must be at least 55 years old, with at least 10 years' service at the AP. Plus, their age and years of service must add up to 75. The terms of the offer stipulate an exit bonus of $500 per year for the number of years spent working for the AP; they also receive extra pension payments equaling a roughly 15% premium over the ordinary pension plan.



In November, the AP said it plans to cut costs by 10% this year, with much of the savings coming from staff reductions, which should allow it to lower membership dues. Even with this preemptive plan in place, the news service will be hard-pressed to keep up with the continuing contraction of its newspaper clients, which have been slammed by competition from the Internet and an economic downturn.

To save costs, some newspaper executives have canceled their AP membership, which they complain is too expensive. In late October, the beleaguered Tribune Co. said it will drop its AP membership after the required two-year notice period. The Columbus Dispatch, the Star Tribune of Minneapolis, and several other regional newspapers have already canceled their AP memberships.

Publishers have also announced a series of separate content-sharing arrangements that could sideline the AP.

In February, the Northeast Consortium was formed by five big regional papers in New York and New Jersey, including The New York Daily News. In December, The Washington Post and The Baltimore Sun struck a deal to share articles and photos beginning in January. The move allows both to expand their coverage, which focuses on Maryland, northern Virginia, and Washington, D.C. Also in December, McClatchy Co. said it would share foreign news stories with The Christian Science Monitor.

A month before, CNN pitched newspapers on CNN Wire, a low-cost alternative to the AP. Eight Ohio newspapers also formed their own news-sharing service. Finally, between September and December of last year, Politico signed up 67 newspapers for a political news content-sharing arrangement, including The Arizona Republic, Des Moines Register, Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Philadelphia Inquirer.

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