ADN begins employee layoffs following bankruptcy, new owners

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Following the financial problems and subsequent bankruptcy of Alaska's largest newspaper, new owners obtained the company with the highest bid, the only bid, of $1 million. The sale, approved by a federal court judge in order to avoid a total shutdown of the paper, came on Sept. 11.

Now, Alaska Dispatch News is reporting that some of the hard choices that were expected have come. After only a little over a week since its sale, the layoffs have started.

On Wednesday, Channel 2 reached out to Ryan Binkley, one of ADN's new owners multiple times, but they did not return any phone calls.

Later Wednesday night, the paper published a story on its website that a "'significant' number of employees have been laid off," confirming the story surrounding ADN as multiple employees reported having been let go throughout the days prior.

According to its own reporting, layoffs were across the board in the company, not just focused on reporters and editorial staff in the newsroom. The company, which had over 200 employees prior to the "restructuring," will now be considerably lighter.

Every department, including "the newsroom, advertising, circulation, production and finance" will be affected by the cuts. ADN said the layoffs began last week and continued through Wednesday.

By the numbers, this restructure was an obvious necessity. The paper was purchased three years ago by Alice Rogoff, then going for a sum to the tune of $34 million. The contrast between this figure, and the $1 million fire sale with a single bidder, signaled the devaluation of the company over time.

It also provided a heavy dose of realism with which the paper's current numbers would need to be reconciled.

At the time of the sale, the new owners said as much, highlighting the degree of risk they were taking in buying the paper, even at the greatly reduced $1 million price tag.

"There's a lot of risk in this deal. There's nothing certain about it, but we're willing to take that risk because we believe that a turnaround is possible," said Binkley.

In ADN's reporting on the layoffs, Binkley said the paper is in a "very, very tough spot" which would require "hard decisions" like those resulting in the layoffs. However, as for how many employees in total have so far been let go, and if any further layoffs are expected, he did not say.

Some employees have already announced their departure from the paper following the layoffs.

In a public Facebook post, columnist Dermot Cole wrote, "I am one of about 10 people that I know of (the total number of layoffs is higher) whose last day at the Alaska Dispatch News was today. The newspaper had to reduce its payroll. That was clear to everyone."

In a series of Tweets, sports writer Doyle Woody announced his exit as well.

As for the future of the paper, and the future of the employees who work there, it is uncertain as to whether this downsizing will continue. When identifying exactly how the paper will survive and what will be left of its staff, the new owners addressed the need to cut costs, as well as some changes taking effect immediately.

On the same day that ADN published confirmation of its own layoffs, they said changes will take effect on the print edition of the newspaper. According to ADN reporting, the paper will now have two sections instead of three on its Monday through Thursday editions.

Binkley reportedly called that change an "'interim step' in the process of rolling out a new format in the next couple of months."

What this new format will entail was not entirely clear, but one thing is certain, it will be a format with fewer employees on deck.