Juneau Empire to lay off 5 employees, consolidate with other newspapers

The Juneau Empire on Channel Drive. (Photo by Heather Bryant/KTOO)
The Juneau Empire on Channel Drive. (Photo by Heather Bryant/KTOO)

The Juneau Empire and Capital City Weekly recently told five of its employees they were being laid off. Three people in the business office and two graphic designers are losing their jobs by the end of the year. Those duties will be done either in Anchorage or outsourced to another country.

The Juneau Empire’s parent company is Georgia-based Morris Communications. In Alaska, the media company also owns the daily Kenai Peninsula paper Peninsula Clarion, The Alaska Journal of Commerce, Homer News andThe Alaska Star.

“In the past, they’ve operated like islands,” said Juneau Empire publisher Rustan Burton. “We’re working to try and get them to work together a lot more and share more resources.”

An example of that is the business office. Instead of having different business offices for different papers, they’ll all be consolidated in Anchorage.

“This is one of those moves that’s going to help us become more efficient and we save some expense,” said Burton.

Burton said another move is laying off graphic designers. Morris Communications is part owner of NIIT Technologies, which is headquartered in India. Besides telemarketing and IT, the company builds ads.

“They have people on the ground here stateside, they have people in India and they have people in the Philippines. So basically it’s a 24-hour shop,” Burton said.

The other Morris newspapers have already undergone consolidation and outsourcing, said Burton. It’s now possible at the Alaska papers after a software update. Burton said the papers have already made efforts to share more content and help each other out.

“We’re in a climate where you got to do that more often. You got to find ways to be more efficient, especially with the way things are going with the state. We’re feeling the effects of that as well and people pulling back, businesses pulling back on advertising. We want to be sure that we’re ahead of that and ready to be able to weather that storm if it gets worse,” Burton said.

The newspapers have already weathered significant ups and downs. In 2010, Morris Publishing Group, a division of Morris Communications, declared bankruptcy. Within a month, Morris Publishing came out of bankruptcy court with an agreement to keep the company together while writing off hundreds of millions of dollars in debt. By 2014, the company’s head said Morris Publishing was debt free.

The Juneau Empire gave out five layoff notices earlier this month, but Burton said most of the employees will work through the end of the year. After the layoffs, Burton said the paper will have a staff of around 35. He said the Peninsula Clarion is losing two to three positions.

As the papers find ways to become more efficient, Burton said more layoffs are a possibility.