Heavy Layoffs At The Huntsville Times, Half Of Newsroom Staff Cut

Several dozen staff members of The Huntsville Times  learned today that they will soon be out of a job after a heavy round of layoffs at north Alabama’s largest newspaper.

Managers at The Huntsville Times held individual meetings with staff members throughout Tuesday to inform them of the job cuts.

Multiple sources confirmed the round of layoffs with WHNT News 19, with one of those sources indicating that roughly half of the newsroom staff had been cut. Sources also indicated a substantial number of layoffs had occured in advertising, printing and publishing, with the total number of job losses estimated to be at least several dozen, and possibly over 100.

Sources said all of the affected employees will be able to stay on until at least the end of September, with some working through the end of 2012. Employees will be given one and a half weeks of severance pay for each year worked.  We were told every employee had a private meeting with Times Editor Kevin Wendt.

Advance Publications currently owns The Huntsville Times, along with The Birmingham News, The Mobile Press-Register and The Times Picayune in New Orleans.  Advance Publications said Tuesday said it would cut about 600 jobs at the newspapers altogether.  Among the three Alabama newspapers, 400 jobs are expected to be cut.

Last month, The Huntsville Times announced it would cut delivery to three days per week starting this fall. The Huntsville Times will also become part of the Alabama Media Group, which will publish the newspaper.

The Alabama Media Group has said it is making these changes to reshape how it delivers local news in an increasingly competitive digital age.

Media analysts said a steady decline in both readership and advertizing dollars led to layoffs they called inevitable.

“I always heard in school that this day would come,” said Bronwen Murray, a Huntsville-based digital media analyst. “We’ve seen this over and over again throughout the course of media, radio to television, now the internet, and you see things kind of fall to the wayside. Unfortunately, I think that is what is happening to print media.”

WHNT News 19 spoke with a former reporter for The Huntsville Times on Tuesday.  Victoria Cumbow wrote for the newspaper for nearly four years.

“The news will still be there, but the context and breadth of knowledge from the reporters lost is tremendous,” said Cumbow. “It’s hard to find the words.”

The Huntsville Times is WHNT News 19’s news partner.  On a personal note, we are keeping the staff members in our thoughts and prayers as they go through these changes.