The economic impacts of coronavirus have hit Louisiana’s largest daily newspaper. In a company wide email, The Advocate Publisher and President Judi Terzotis announced that all salaried employees and full-time hourly staff would be reduced to working four days a week, resulting in a twenty percent pay cut. The email also announced that “a number of our staffers will be temporarily furloughed.”
“Our world has turned upside down,” the email said. “It is a shame that a terrible economy requires these moves at the same time our importance to the community has risen. More people are reading our journalism, online and in print, than ever before.”
Terzotis and Peter Kovacs, editor of The Advocate, published an article on The Times-Picayune/New Orleans Advocate on Monday announcing the changes. The piece said that the furloughs will apply to “about a tenth of our 400-member workforce,” meaning roughly 40 people.
In an interview, Terzotis said that the cuts were being implemented “100 percent across all of our markets and product lines.” She did not go into detail, but the Georges Media Group’s holdings include The Times-Picayune/New Orleans Advocate, Baton Rouge-based The Advocate, The Acadiana Advocate and Gambit.
She said that judgements on which employees to furlough were partially made on whether that employee could effectively do their job remotely during the remainder of the coronavirus pandemic. She said that there were “very few” cuts to news staff.
In the article, Terzotis and Kovacs said that cuts within the paper’s 120-person newsroom staff will “chiefly impact people who cover sports and social events, which have been curtailed.”
“These are the positions that are having difficulty working from home,” Terzotis said. “These are all exceptional employees. Every one of them deserves to be working and I hope to be able to restore that in short order.”
Terzotis said that the paper’s owner, John Georges, would be paying the health care premiums of furloughed employees. According to the email “under new rules in effect, they will be eligible for immediate unemployment benefits from the State of Louisiana to soften the blow.”
Terzotis email said that permanent cuts and layoffs would be a “last resort.”
“We’ve made adjustments and we hope they’re temporary,” she said in an interview. “But our job one is to make sure we have a healthy organization that can support our strong journalism and our commitment to these communities. So I don’t take these types of decisions lightly. I know this affects our employees and their families.”
The email said that the measures were in response to the cascading economic hardships felt around the world due to the coronavirus.
“The majority of our revenue still comes from advertising, and the same businesses who advertise with us are often the ones who have been shut down by government orders. No one knows how long the downturn will last, but is clear it will be measured in weeks and months instead of days.”
The email said that other cost-saving measures we’re already in place, such as suspending company travel, reducing freelance work and cutting overtime and part-time hours.
“It does not come close to keep up with the losses we are projecting for the next few months,” it said. “It is our belief and hope that this is a temporary slowdown.”
This story was updated after publication with additional details on how many employees are being furloughed and information from Times-Picayune/New Orleans Advocate’s article announcing the cost-cutting measures.