PATRICK Dolan’s Newsday took staffers by “surprise” Thursday when executives of the largest newspaper on Long Island said it is offering voluntary buyouts, Media Ink has learned.
“They called everyone into the auditorium at 11 a.m. and told them they were offering buyouts,” said one veteran. “It took people by surprise.”
The newsroom staff, which one source estimated has about 300 people, was addressed by publisher Debby Krenek and editor-in-chief Debbie Henley — and told they have until Aug. 8 to apply for a buyout.
The paper will give them one day to withdraw the application, by Aug. 9, sources said.
“Newsday is transforming from a traditional newspaper into a leading-edge multimedia and multi-platform content generation machine, with expanded video, exciting live events and experiences for subscribers,” said a Newsday spokesman, who confirmed the buyout offer.
He did not disclose the current head count in the newsroom or the number of buyouts the publisher is hoping to achieve.
The terms are fairly generous: three weeks’ pay for each year, with a maximum cap of 65 weeks’ pay.
Staffers can elect to get a one-time lump sum or stay on the payroll through 2019 and get the remainder in a lump sum in early 2020.
The buyout offers come one year after Dolan became the sole owner of the paper. In August 2018 Dolan bought out the stake held by his father, Cablevision founder Chuck Dolan, and a minority stake held by cable giant Altice .
Dolan, whose brother James runs Madison Square Garden, appears to be cutting costs at the paper generally. Last week, Newsday announced it was moving down the road from its present 40-year-old headquarters at a former sod farm at 235 Pinelawn Road in Melville on Long Island to a new, smaller location in an office park just down the street.
One reason is that Newsday’s current massive headquarters housed its old printing presses, which are no longer in use.
The paper outsourced its printing to the New York Times plant in College Point, Queens, a year ago.
That resulted in the laying off of all the pressmen who ran the mammoth color presses, as well as the truck drivers who delivered it.
“It’s very sad, there’s a lot of history here and a lot of Pulitzer Prizes,” said the staffer of the pending move.
The new, 130,000-square-foot office, which will house the editorial, advertising and business staff, is located at 6 Corporate Center Drive, also in Melville.
“Our new headquarters will contain a state-of-the-art TV studio and theater equipped for live broadcasts,” said the Newsday spokesman.
“As we evolve, our staffing needs will continue to change. We will be needing more people in some areas and fewer in others. Rapidly changing technology plays a part in this. Right now we are actively recruiting applicants to fill over thirty positions, including new positions for video journalists and producers.”
The move has already been announced for Aug. 16 — a week after the buyouts conclude.
One source said he thought the paper was looking for about 40 volunteers to take the buyout. The program is said to be “completely voluntary.”
Cablevision, when it was still controlled by the Dolan family, paid a whopping $650 million to buy Newsday from Sam Zell’s Tribune Company in 2008 before the Great Recession hit the newspaper industry.
The paper, which weathered a circulation-pumping scandal earlier in the decade, lost tens of millions annually for most of its ownership under the Dolans’ Cablevision.
In June 2016, Cablevision was purchased by European cable behemoth Altice for $17.7 billion, and Newsday was spun off to Patrick and Chuck Dolan.
Sources said Patrick at that time had forgone his interest in other Dolan family holdings.
These included Madison Square Garden and the lucrative sports franchises the New York Knicks and the New York Rangers, which went to James.
“We are making sure our workforce represents the skill sets and staffing levels appropriate for our organization, tomorrow and into the future,” said the Newsday spokesman.