On Wednesday, the Sun-Times Media Group, at a meeting in the Sun-Times led by CEO Cyrus Freidheim Jr., told their unions they needed to cut their overall wage and benefit packages by 7 percent; they asked the unions to come up with ways to do it. The Sun-Times unit of the Chicago Newspaper Guild, which represents editorial employees at several of the papers, will meet Monday evening to discuss the issue.
Sure to be on the agenda too is an idea the company floated Friday afternoon at the Sun-Times. It's to eliminate 25 to 30 jobs -- about a fifth of the editorial jobs remaining at that paper -- by outsourcing the copy editing and layout functions, possibly to India. The idea was flatly rejected -- the Guild would be surrendering jurisdiction over those jobs. But that simply means that if and when the company proceeds, the guild will file a grievance.
The Sun-Times Media Group would have to be in terrible shape to consider such an idea. To turn copy over to editors on the other side of the world whose idiomatic English is so different is to guarantee constant aggravation and frustration, not to mention published howlers. But this company is in terrible shape. It cut itself to the bone to slash 2008 expenses by $50 million and now it's trying to find $50 million more to cut. Its third-quarter losses were $168 million.
On Thursday the company announced it was closing 12 of its suburban papers.