The Honolulu Star-Advertiser is laying off 15 newsroom employees.
The layoffs at the newspaper, owned by Oahu Publications Inc., which has about 565 employees, are effective Oct. 17.
Dennis Francis, president and publisher of the Star- Advertiser, offered a “voluntary separation incentive program” in August to employees in the newsroom who are represented by the San Francisco-based Pacific Media Workers Guild. That buyout offer was rescinded after the guild raised concerns about it. Francis agreed to another voluntary offer, but it also was pulled back after members of the national guild again voiced objections. As a result, all job eliminations will be by layoff.
“RIFs (reductions in force) have been a part of the newspaper landscape even here in Honolulu since the late 1990s,” Francis said.
“It’s unfortunate that the big-box national retailers continue to see downturns in business. Although Honolulu bucks that trend with recent new stores by Target and Macy’s, we are being swept up by a national decision in advertising where results haven’t been as strong as evidenced by the new stores being built in Honolulu,” he said. “Local retail continues to remain very strong and in fact be a market leader. It’s always unfortunate when there’s a reduction in jobs, but to remain vibrant in the future it’s a necessary adjustment.”
The Star-Advertiser’s layoffs are similar to a pattern of cuts throughout the newspaper industry in the past several years. Reductions have included those by The New York Times in July; Gannett Co., which recently announced major cuts; and the Seattle Times, which offered buyouts at the start of the year. There are estimated to have been 400 cuts, buyouts or layoffs in the industry during the first six months of this year.
“We were a bit surprised when the company management informed us two months ago that they would lay off workers,” said Sjarif Goldstein, assistant sports editor and chairman of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser unit of the Pacific Media Workers Guild.
“The idea that our management would see fit to get rid of 15 quality journalists who are in part responsible for the company’s growth was, to say the least, startling,” Goldstein said.
Francis noted that while newsroom job cuts are significant, “We have since the first of the year had approximately 20 positions that have been unfilled throughout the company, and we consider every employee to be valuable.”
In addition to the Star-Advertiser, OPI also owns MidWeek, The Garden Island on Kauai, and West Hawaii Today and the Hawaii Tribune-Herald on Hawaii island. The Star-Advertiser layoffs follow reductions of eight jobs at other OPI properties a few weeks ago.