Life at the Pi Press: yesterday's lies, tomorrow's layoffs

Categories: Media

"You'll be happy after the closing. You will barely know it happens." Thus spoke Dean Singleton, CEO of the MediaNews Group, when he met with employees of the St. Paul Pioneer Press on April 27. At the time, Singleton had just emerged as the most likely buyer of the Pi Press, which was left orphaned by the dismantling of the Knight Ridder newspaper chain. According to a contemporaneous report of the meeting (in the Pi Press, no less), Singleton said the takeover wouldn't lead to layoffs or a reduction in benefits. On the contrary, he declared himself "totally on board" with the existing strategy to "keep the paper growing."

Given Singleton's reputation as a ruthless cost cutter--and the reflexive paranoia of most media shops--it's no mystery why Singleton would feel compelled to indulge in such happy talk.

Whether the staffers on hand actually believed Singleton remains an open question. But after yesterday's announcement from Pi Press publisher Par Ridder, it hard to imagine any staffers will take comfort in future pronouncements from Singleton.

As the Strib reports, the paper plans to eliminate 40 full-time positions in the next two weeks through a combination of buyouts, attrition and layoffs. About half the positions are in the newsroom.

Note to disconsolate Pi Press scribes: It could be worse. According to the East Bay Express, MediaNews wants to slash salaries for starting reporters at the San Jose Mercury News--another of the Knight Ridder orphans snatched up by Singleton--by more than 30 percent.

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