Sponsor

Furloughs come down at Capital Times and Wisconsin State Journal

The decision is the latest blow to local journalism amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

This story will be updated. Got a tip? Email me.

The Wisconsin State Journal and The Capital Times are furloughing some staff for two weeks and reducing pay across the board, upper management announced to staff in emails Tuesday morning. The decision will mean even fewer resources for two of Wisconsin’s most important newsrooms, as the state heads into an important primary election and as the COVID-19 pandemic makes on-the-ground reporting more crucial than ever. 

Sponsor
A promotional graphic for the Mad Lit events series shows the series' logo and text stating (8 p.m. until 11 p.m., Every other Friday, 100 block of state St. July 1st-October 7th. A collage of performers and audience members is visible to the right, and the logos of event sponsors are visible along the bottom.

The State Journal, Wisconsin’s second-largest newspaper, is owned by the corporate newspaper chain Lee Enterprises. The Capital Times was founded in 1917 as a progressive rival to the State Journal. The two papers formed a partnership company, now called  Capital Newspapers Inc., more than 70 years ago. They share facilities on Fish Hatchery Road and jointly publish madison.com, while continuing to operate as separate entities making their own editorial decisions. 

Lee Enterprises CEO Kevin Mowbray detailed the coming cuts in an email provided to Tone Madison, attributing the problems to the COVID-19 pandemic:

Unfortunately, even our best efforts cannot overshadow the fact that our advertising revenue has been dramatically impacted now and for the near future. To ensure our own sustainability, it’s important that we manage the economic impact to our company. The sacrifices we make now will minimize the long-term damage the pandemic could have on our business.

Consequently, we are implementing a combination of pay reductions and furloughs. In the third quarter, the executive team will be taking a 20% reduction in pay on top of a pay reduction implemented in Q1. All other employees will be subject to either a pay reduction or furlough equivalent to two weeks of salary also in the third quarter.

In a separate email to his staff, Capital Times editor Paul Fanlund confirmed that the cuts would apply to them as well.

The past few weeks have already been tough on media in Wisconsin and everywhere, and that’s on top of the massive cuts and layoffs media outlets have experienced over the past 30 years. Madison’s weekly paper, Isthmus, announced on March 19 that it would “go dark” for an undetermined period of time, though it has continued to publish new stories online. The massive newspaper chain Gannett announced another round of furloughs Monday, which will hit Wisconsin hard—Gannett owns 12 newspapers here, including the state’s largest, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Here is Mowbray’s email to staff, in full:

To all Lee employees,

Thank you for being there when it counts most.

The COVID-19 pandemic is more than a news event. It’s an unprecedented series of events. Its impact is widespread, touching everyone and dramatically altering our way of life. It’s also having a profound impact on our business – a business that depends on serving our readers, our advertisers, and our communities.

No one foresaw the challenges this pandemic would bring but you have all reacted with incredible creativity and resiliency and have managed to deliver your best work under difficult circumstances.

  *   Our newsrooms are navigating some unfamiliar situations to deliver outstanding local news coverage that our readers trust. And because of their passion, hard work, and dedication to journalism, we are keeping our communities informed and engaged. Our readership is stronger today than it’s ever been.

  *   Our audience team is working diligently to convert into subscribers the many new readers who have engaged in our breaking news alerts, live video chats, and coronavirus newsletters. We’ve seen an uptick in our digital-only subscriptions.

  *   Our advertising staffs are working even closer with local businesses to support them as they reach out to their customers and sustain their businesses. Local business continues to depend on us to deliver the largest local print and digital audiences, and we do.

  *   Our printing, production and distribution operations have implemented new processes to keep our production and distribution centers safe for our employees and readers. And, we continue to communicate to our readers the ways we are staying safe.

I’m proud of the way we have met this challenge as a company; for the swift action and incredible response to a shifting workplace in this time of uncertainty. We’ve come together, and we’ll continue to require each other’s support in the weeks and months ahead.

Unfortunately, even our best efforts cannot overshadow the fact that our advertising revenue has been dramatically impacted now and for the near future. To ensure our own sustainability, it’s important that we manage the economic impact to our company. The sacrifices we make now will minimize the long-term damage the pandemic could have on our business.

Consequently, we are implementing a combination of pay reductions and furloughs. In the third quarter, the executive team will be taking a 20% reduction in pay on top of a pay reduction implemented in Q1. All other employees will be subject to either a pay reduction or furlough equivalent to two weeks of salary also in the third quarter.

We do not take these actions lightly and fully understand the sacrifices being made. Our goal is to ensure we weather the difficult days ahead and emerge stronger together with opportunities to grow our business when the pandemic passes.

I am truly grateful for your ongoing hard work and commitment to Lee.

If you have any questions, please reach out to your human resources representative or to Astrid Garcia. Astrid will be sending out more details later this morning.

Thank you, be safe and stay well.

Regards,

Kevin

And here is Editor Paul Fanlund and President Clayton Frink’s email to Capital Times staff:

Dear Cap Times employee:

We’d like to thank you for your superb work in responding to the crisis we are all enduring. We have been gratified both by increased digital traffic and new memberships that your work has generated.

At the same time, as you might suspect, revenue has been dramatically impacted now and will be for the near future. The sacrifice we make now will help minimize the long-term damage the pandemic could have.

So the plan is that everyone will effectively lose two weeks of pay over the next 13 weeks. While senior management will get no time off to compensate, the rest of the staff will get time off. Exactly when the time off occurs will be negotiated with your supervisor.

We have not taken these actions lightly and fully understand the sacrifice being made. We are truly grateful for your ongoing hard work. These reductions are in sync with those throughout the State Journal and MNI. If you have any questions, please be sure to reach out to Shari, Ashlee or me (Paul).

Thank you,

Paul & Clayton

Correction: The initial version of this article incorrectly stated that Gannett had announced a round of layoffs this week. They were furloughs, not layoffs. The reference has been corrected.

Help us publish more stories like this one.

Local art shows how people in Madison think and feel—how Madison looks, and how Madison looks at itself.

 

 

Will you help us raise $2,000 to shore up our budget for editorial art?

 

 

Will you help us raise $2,000 to hire more local artists?

This site uses cookies to provide you with a great user experience. By continuing to use this website, you consent to the use of cookies in accordance with our privacy policy.

Scroll to Top