More Than 200 McClatchy Employees Take Buyouts; CEO Calls Efforts Good "for the Future of Our Republic" UPDATED

Carol Rosenberg, who will be leaving the Miami Herald, on Meet the Press.
Carol Rosenberg, who will be leaving the Miami Herald, on Meet the Press. Courtesy of NBC
McClatchy Company CEO Craig Forman announced Wednesday "a bit fewer" than 225 employees had accepted buyout offers and would leave newspapers across the country. Among them are longtime and highly accomplished Miami voices in the gay community, in state politics, and in sports. Also departing is one of the nation's most important reporters covering international politics.

In a letter that left several longtime employees shaking their heads, Forman wrote that "these efforts are building the future of our company, and its role in our communities — and in the future of our republic."

The chain's flagship, the Miami Herald, is losing at least ten employees, New Times has learned. Among them are sportswriter Clark Spencer, who has covered horseracing and the Miami Marlins, among other assignments; staff writer (and author) Glenn Garvin; Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Patrick Farrell; longtime Cuba expert Mimi Whitefield; and the paper's highest-profile LGBTQ writer and editor, Steve Rothaus.

Mary Ellen Klas, co-bureau chief in the state capital of Tallahassee, said she has signed early-retirement paperwork but has not yet made a final decision to leave. She is off this year on a Nieman fellowship at Harvard University, where she is examining "the relationship between declining journalism resources and corruption in local communities and, more specifically, what happens to government integrity when watchdog reporting declines,” according to a Nieman Foundation release.

Also departing is Carol Rosenberg, who has covered the Guantánamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba for the Herald since before the first detainees arrived in early 2002. Rosenberg for years has been the only reporter writing about the base nearly full-time. Her position was recently and partially supported by the Pulitzer Center.

In a letter to staff at the New York Times yesterday, executive editor Dean Baquet and Washington bureau chief Elisabeth Bumiller wrote, "Carol understands the place deeply. We believe Guantánamo will continue to be a major story. Eventually there may be trials. And in the meantime it remains one of the most powerful legacies of America’s war on terrorism." 

Metro and local reporting at the Herald remains basically intact.

Jeanne Segal, director of PR and communications for McClatchy, declined to say who was departing from other McClatchy properties in Kansas City, Charlotte, Raleigh, Fort Worth, and elsewhere or whether there would be layoffs in the short term. She also said that whether vacated positions would be "backfilled" was up to "local properties."

"I don't think we expected 100 percent of the people to say yes [to the buyouts]," Segal said.

McClatchy's announcement of the buyouts several weeks ago came after layoffs and cutbacks at other major media properties, including BuzzFeed and Gannett. Mark Seibel, a former top BuzzFeed editor, has been hired by the Washington Post

Forman's letter, which is printed below, discusses the "emotional strain" of the past two weeks in deciding the buyouts and says the departing employees will be missed. It also refers to "investment in new technology" and "onboarding our new customers."
Dear Everyone,

The results are in and here is the headline: A bit fewer than half of our colleagues volunteered for the early retirement offer, out of 450.

As much as this offer was a voluntary, optional opportunity, I know that these past two weeks have been challenging, not only for the colleagues weighing their choice but also for those of us anticipating the voluntary retirements of longtime co-workers and friends.

It goes without saying that this transformation is difficult and the past two weeks illustrates, in a very human way, the emotional strain of our transformation. The accumulated experience, talent and true professionalism that will leave our day-to-day press rooms, offices and newsrooms is enormous and will be greatly missed. I said before and repeat now, we have the utmost gratitude and respect for our colleagues who have opted to take this voluntary opportunity. They are a devoted and integral part of our company and have contributed to an important stage in our transformation. I know I speak for all of us that their presence, knowledge, and professionalism will be missed.

In addition, I also want to take a moment to thank those colleagues who have decided to stay, who said “no” to the buyout. And to the thousands of others of us who also now go forward: our work continues and your continued commitment to the mission and success of our business is greatly appreciated. The accelerated progress in our transformation is what pays for the investment in new technology platforms that make acquiring and onboarding our new customers more fluid and flawless, and in new colleagues who may well join us in the future. And so much else.

To paraphrase a great leader: we choose to do this not because it is easy. But because it matters. Your commitment, your efforts today and tomorrow and the day after are what is paving the way for our transformation. Our growing digital subscriber base. Our award-winning coverage. Our digital and print advertising evolution. Our vital mission of being essential in the 30 communities around America that together make McClatchy. And closer to home, the pensions of thousands of our cherished colleagues and alumni.

These efforts are building the future of our company, and its role in our communities — and in the future of our republic. And that’s a mission that has never been more vital in our 162-year history.

And standing on the shoulders not solely of the departing colleagues whom we wish well, but the tens of thousands who preceded them in the past 162 years, I simply want to acknowledge these efforts and the shared passion for local journalism and say thank you to all.

Again, please join me in wishing our colleagues well on their next steps.

Update: An earlier version of this article incorrectly described Mary Ellen Klas' situation and did not include
Mimi Whitefield's and Patrick Farrell's acceptance of the buyout.
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Chuck Strouse is the former editor in chief of Miami New Times. He has shared two Pulitzer Prizes and won dozens of other awards. He is an honors graduate of Brown University and has worked at newspapers including the Miami Herald and Los Angeles Times.
Contact: Chuck Strouse