Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Bangor Daily lays off 11; Press Herald hiring

Published in the Portland Phoenix

Two days after Election Day, the Bangor Daily News laid off its sole State House reporter and 10 others.

The Thursday layoff victims included 35-year veteran AJ Higgins, who started at the newspaper as a “stereotyper,” creating lead plates for the printing presses, and worked his way up to serving as the paper’s State House reporter in Augusta.

Managing editor Julie Harris said Friday “we’ve had better days,” and “it was a very sad day here yesterday.” She said the reason for the layoffs was “economic” — specifically that “circulation is down” and “advertising is down.”

Executive editor Mark Woodward said all departments were reduced in some way, noting that the company’s staff is down about 20 people over the last several weeks, as a result of some people retiring and others leaving “of their own volition,” in addition to the layoffs.

Higgins, reached by phone on Friday, said cheerily he was “looking for work,” and seemed unperturbed. “I think my boss felt worse than I did,” he said. He said he “knew something was up about a week ago,” that the paper was not getting the revenue the company hoped for. “I figured there was about a 20-percent chance they would come for me,” because he was “probably one of their higher-paid reporters,” and because the paper has access to Associated Press coverage of the State House. Woodward said the news staff would determine next week how to handle coverage in Augusta and elsewhere with fewer staff.

“They’ll have something but they won’t have what they had, and I think they know that,” Higgins said. He said the editorial department “took the biggest hit,” though there were others laid off from other departments.

A prepared statement from Woodward’s office said the laid-off employees were “offered extended severance packages,” which Higgins described as “generous . . . very fair, very kind.”

In other Maine newspaper developments, the Portland Press Herald has posted 27 open positions on the newspaper’s jobs Web site, The open positions, primarily in the news and circulation departments, include: online editor, assistant managing editor for features, distribution assistant, and circulation helper.