Philadelphia’s two largest newspapers are merging with their online home, which has local journalists bracing for layoffs.
Owners of the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Daily News and Philly.com announced a major restructuring Friday that publisher Terry Egger told staffers could save as much as $6 million.
Readers won’t notice a big difference right away. The Philadelphia Media Network, which owns all three news outlets, will continue to print editions of the two newspapers, while focusing more resources online. However, the company guaranteed jobs will be cut.
“We touched upon the need to reduce expenses, which unfortunately will mean some lost jobs,” said PMN spokeswoman Amy Buckman in a statement.
Buckman would not say how many layoffs are planned.
Howard Gensler, president of the Newspaper Guild union and entertainment reporter for the Daily News, said the mood in the newsroom is grim.
“A little bit of anger and frustration, nobody cried yet because again, nobody knows who’s targeted,” he said. “There’s bad news and more bad news is coming, but we don’t know who the bad news effects yet.”
Union leaders expect to meet with the company next week to begin discussing layoffs. The Guild’s contract, negotiated in June after union members threatened to strike, includes two separate seniority lists for each newspaper. Employees at Philly.com have a separate seniority list.
Sources inside the news organizations said the merger was intended to reduce duplication and avoid sending multiple reporters, for example, to cover the same press conference.
However, the question is whether the Inquirer, a more formal broadsheet and the Daily News, its tabloid sister, will maintain their distinct voices, as well as a healthy sense of competition. The ongoing saga involving state Attorney General Kathleen Kane and the “Porngate” scandal is a prime example of how reporters at both papers have competed to break open the story.
While much is still unknown about how the merger will work, Gensler said if the papers’ two styles are not preserved, it will be a major loss for the city.
“There are certain issues that some people might be more willing to talk to one paper more than the other, and if all the news is coming down through one silo, so to speak, that’s going to be lost,”he said. “And that’s unfortunate.”