Lee Enterprises last week implemented another round of staff cuts at its Montana newspapers and plans to bring the weekly Missoula Independent into the Missoulian’s downtown office.
The company also said it will reduce the number of days the Ravalli Republic in Hamilton publishes a newspaper, from five days to three, and will close two customer call centers in Indiana, eliminating 93 jobs.
Matt Gibson, the Missoulian’s general manager, said he couldn’t discuss the paper’s latest round of layoffs. However, he said the Missoulian, the Missoula Independent and the Ravalli Republic – all owned by Lee Enterprises – remain on solid footing.
“I absolutely feel confident in the paper’s future,” he said Monday. “We remain the leading news and information outlet in our market. We employ more journalists at our three papers than perhaps the rest of the media combined. We’re well positioned to continue providing the kind of news and information the community expects of us.”
The reductions come as Lee Enterprises reported quarterly earnings of $27.3 million though digital services – an increase of 3.2 percent. But Lee’s overall advertising revenue was down in the last quarter of 2017, according to Poynter.
“Lee Enterprises had an advertising revenue loss of 9 percent in the last quarter of 2017, but was able to increase profits with cuts in people and paper and a favorable income tax adjustment,” Poynter reported.
At the Missoulian, the latest round of cuts included the newspaper’s advertising manager and two members of the newsroom, including sports copy editor Tom Kopacz and sports reporter Kyle Houghtaling.
Both announced their departure last week on social media.
“Tonight is my last night at the @missoulian,” Houghtaling tweeted. “The paper had some layoffs and a sportster had to go. I volunteered.”
Last Thursday, the Independent also reported that it would move in with the Missoulian at the paper’s office on Higgins Avenue and share a single advertising manager. According to the Indy, Gibson said the move would save a “substantial amount” of money, possibly sparing the weekly paper from its own job losses.
Over the weekend, the Ravalli Republic reported that it would cut the publication of its newspaper to three days a week, down from its current five. Gibson said reports in the Indy and Republic were accurate and declined to discuss them further.
The local reduction in employees and days of publication come as the Billings Gazette and Montana Standard, which are also owned by Lee Enterprises, made their own staff reductions.
At the Montana Standard, the cuts include the paper’s longtime photographer Walter Hinick and managing editor Carmen Winslow. Hinick had served with the Standard for 43 years, as had Winslow.
Winslow couldn’t be reached Monday for comment.
Last week, Lee Enterprises submitted a notification with the Indiana Department of Workforce Development stating that it would close two customer call centers in Indiana. The closures will take effect on March 30 and impact 93 employees, including customer service representatives.
According to one former call-center employee, the company is moving the jobs to Ohio and Mexico. However, that couldn’t be confirmed.