March 24, 2009

Why May for Advance pension changes and other musings online about Monday's talks

I'm rushed so just some of the things I've picked up about Advance Publications changes out on the web and in my RSS feeds.

Pensions are not easy to understand, so this blog post on NJ Voices helps explain some of the technical parts. Read Trust the Ledger, not New Jersey, on pension changes.

For instance, why mid-May for benefit changes?
"They froze benefit accruals so the funding hole wouldn't get deeper. In general, any amendment that reduces the rate of future accruals requires a 45-day advance notice to participants [ERISA §204(h)]. That's why they told people today so nobody would accrue past mid-May. That May date is also important since most benefit accruals for the year require 1,000 hours of service. If benefits are frozen prior to achieving 1,000 hours in 2009, there is no 2009 benefit accrual."
Blogger John Bury is an Enrolled Actuary with his own pension consulting firm in Montclair, New Jersey. He shares a link to other pension plans here.

And while we're cruising in New Jersey I discovered TV watching was tough for Allan Sepinwall, the TV critic of The Star-Ledger. He writes the blog What's Alan Watching and said this about How I Met Your Mother:
"Now, admittedly, today's news at the paper may well have made it impossible for me to enjoy a storyline about fake jobs, Ted being on the verge of getting fired, a room designed for firing people, etc., but I don't think so. The biggest laugh I had at the episode was the security cam montage of Barney firing people"
Some of the Newhouse newspapers published letters from the publishers online, including the Oregonian. A letter from the Oregonian publishers Fred and Patrick Stickel details changes within that newspaper and told employees how to calculate their pension benefits.

There was a blog post and an article posted on OregonLive about the changes that include the Stickels and editor Sandy Rowe taking 15 percent pay cuts while other staff will see salaries reduced 5-10 percent; pensions will be frozen in May with company contributions to 401ks increasing. Also some circulation changes coming and some part-timers will lose their jobs.

A slightly different take is offered in this article Oregonian issues furloughs, pension freeze after losing millions.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer announced its cuts and warned more changes may come.
"President Terrance C. Z. Egger announced that full-time, non-union employees must take 10 days of unpaid leave between April 20 and Oct. 4.Full-time and part-time non-union employees will see their first $50,000 of pay cut by 8 percent and any additional pay reduced by 10 percent as of June 1. The furloughs involve 370 employees. Pay cuts will affect about 450 of the Plain Dealer's 1,055 workers. The newspaper also is evaluating its employee benefits packages and could make changes this summer."
An Oregon blogger wrote that a 10 percent pay cut is 90 percent better than laid off but starts off:
"I felt like I was at a funeral today and that is so incredibly sad to me.
Then, the blogger shares the better attitude:
"At the same time, I feel incredibly blessed and fortunate to work for Advance - most other papers have layed off much of their staff, cut benefits, frozen 401K matches and reduced salaries. I am still employed, I still have great benefits for myself and my husband (we certainly need those right now) and I still get to say that I work for one of the best papers in the country. I just wish I was confident that I would have that long-term. But as someone I know said recently, "nothing lasts forever."
Meanwhile, the demise of the Ann Arbor News brings out support for newspapers from Ann Arbor blogger Mark Maynard:
"Newspapers, when they function well, invest time and money in cultivating leads, checking facts and really digging into stories. They demand accountability. The bottom line is, I don’t know that I’d want to live in a community that isn’t served by real journalists."
The changes brought some reminiscing. In Old newspapers don't just die, they .... Mark Silvia says
"As someone who spent some of his most memorable early years in the business in Michigan, at the Muskegon Chronicle - it took me four hours to get there from Saginaw - and who once traveled to corporate headquarters in Ann Arbor for some management screening which included a couch-session with a psychiatrist - which could be considered essential to continuing work in journalism today - we could not help but wince at today's news of the Ann Arbor News ceasing publication."
Tom Wickham, who has worked at a number of the Michigan Advance newspapers, remembers what happened during his years as a Newhouse employee in No celebrating here before moving onto the issue of newspapers.
"Frankly, I agree that the newspapers need to adapt to survive. But it does nothing to assuage the melancholy feeling that came over me today when I read the news, online, of course. I immediately tweeted the story to others in my network and I placed a link on my Facebook page."
Wickham also replied in another post to a former friend celebrating the demise of newspapers.
"It is sad that you see the death of newspapers as something to celebrate. While you are entitled to your opinion, your comments cut deep. The people impacted by the changes are my dear friends. Many will lose their jobs. Some, I am sure, even share the political views as you do, but seem to be justifiable collateral damage in your eyes."
Fitz and Jen talk about the "three forces that killed Ann Arbor News" on the E&P site.

But let's end on a more positive note with a thoughtful post assuring all that journalism is not ending comes from Jane Briggs-Bunting, who is director of the J-School at Michigan State University. She starts by noting the effects of the economy and changes born because of technology.
“ The times have changed. The news and information delivery models will be different. And news organizations like newspapers, TV and radio are scrambling to catch up (and frankly, somehow must have missed that press release when Tim Berners-Lee developed the World Wide Web, or Craigslist started running free classified and…the list goes on and on.”
Make no mistake, these are not easy times.
"This is shake up, break up and then we will make it up. The founding fathers didn’t protect a free press in the 1st Amendment to be nice guys. They did it because they got it that someone had to watchdog government and the press was the one entity to do that—fearlessly.....
....So hang on. This makes the worst roller coaster in the world look like a kiddie ride. This is scary, challenging, thrilling, fun and most of us will live through it and even benefit.
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