I don’t know Karl Thies or Martha Wiley, but I sure do appreciate them.
If you looked at the bottom of Page A9 on Tuesday, you can see why. A display ad they commissioned reads “Democracy dies in the darkness. Local newspapers are important. We support the Columbian.”
If you looked at the rest of the paper, you can see what prompted them to purchase the unusual ad. Like virtually every other newspaper in the United States, we are unsustainably thin on advertising. There are two main reasons: A lot of our advertisers are closed indefinitely as we battle the spread of the coronavirus. And some advertisers that are open are unsure about their inventories or aren’t enticing shoppers at the moment due to social distancing.
We haven’t been hit as hard as, say the restaurant industry. But this week, a New York Times analysis found that more than 28,000 news media employees in the United States have been subject to pay cuts, furloughs or layoffs in the last couple of weeks. On Wednesday, The Oregonian announced pay cuts and furloughs for its employees, joining most of the Portland news media in cutbacks.
We are using a Washington Employment Security Department program called Shared Work for copy editors and sports reporters, as well as employees in other departments of the newspaper. They are working reduced hours, but still receive their full benefits and get unemployment compensation for the hours they have lost. We hope it will be a way to keep our great staff as intact as possible, so that we can return to a more normal footing once the restrictions are eased. And we are doing many other things to save costs, too, as I wrote about last week.