UPDATE: More Press-Telegram Employees Laid Off; Sports, Photo Departments Moved to Torrance

UPDATE Friday, July 1, 10:45am | Steven Georges, one of the two former Press-Telegram photojournalists who was laid off on Monday, contacted us on Thursday to provide  more specific information as to the number of years he and his former colleague, Diandra Jay, had worked for the Long-Beach-based daily newspaper.

Georges said he had been with the PT for more than 18 years, and Jay had been with the paper for more than 11.

UPDATE Tuesday, June 28, 7:01pm | The photography and sports departments at the Press-Telegram have ceased to exist, with most of those formerly employed in those departments now reporting for work at the Daily Breeze as employees of the Torrance daily newspaper.

Their first day at the Breeze was Tuesday.

The employees of those departments three weeks ago were forced to reapply for their jobs at the PT's sister paper, and not all of them made the cut, according to information provided by the PT's Kristopher Hanson.

Former PT staff photographers Steven Georges and Diandra Jay on Monday were handed pink slips and told to clear out their desks. The same was the case for sports columnist Frank Burlison, who was also laid off Monday.

Georges had been with the PT for more than 15 years, Hanson said, and Jay, for more than 10. Burlison, however, had both of them beat, having worked for the PT for more than 20 years.

Just the night before, on Sunday, Jay walked away with an award from the Los Angeles Press Club during its 53rd annual awards gala. She took first place in sports photo for a shot entitled "Celebration."

"The Press-Telegram has lost some of its longtime names," Hanson said. "It's all very confusing at this point."

A steward for the union representing all PT employees, Hanson described this latest downsizing at the hands of the PT's parent company, Media NewsGroup, as "the breaking up of a family." 

Day City Editor Rose Fitzpatrick has also been laid off, her last day having been Friday.

The PT's one-man features department is being shuttered, too, with Thursday expected to be Al Rudis' last day, Hanson said.

Last week, Los Angeles Newspaper Group, the branch of MediaNews Group that oversees the PT, laid off 70 employees from its other nine member papers.

UPDATE Friday, April 29, 3:25pm | The Long Beach Press-Telegram's Kristopher Hanson has clarified that only two editors at the local daily newspaper received actual pink slips Friday, while the remaining employees whose departments are being shuttered and outsourced to the Daily Breeze were told they can apply for a limited number of available positions at the Torrance daily.

"Essentially, these people are being let go," Hanson said in reference to the dozen or so staffers who work in the photo, sports and features departments. 

It is not known exactly how many positions will be made available at the Breeze.

Hanson is a steward for the union representing PT staffers, Southern California Media Guild Local 9400. He said that as far as the union is concerned, PT parent company MediaNews Group Inc.'s announcement Friday is nothing more than a union-busting attempt.

MediaNews Group also owns the Breeze, but that paper is not unionized, meaning any currently unionized PT employees who successfully apply for and obtain jobs at the Breeze would no longer be represented by the guild.

Hanson noted, however, that PT staffers' contracts feature language guaranteeing them continued union representation so long as they continue to contribute content and work to the PT regardless of where they are located.
"Our (the union's) position is that these are jobs being transferred to another location," meaning the employees would retain their union representation.

The affected employees and the union are scheduled to meet with the company next Wednesday, May 3, Hanson said.

"It's outrageous to do this," Hanson said. "You're going to have photographers and sports writers covering Long Beach from Torrance."

He said that this is the third time such a situation has cropped up in the last three years.

First it was the copy desk and design and production department, which were outsourced in 2008. That was followed by the outsourcing of the circulation department in 2009, he said. The functions of these departments and the copy desk were all outsourced to non-unionized locations, he added.

Asked to describe the mood at PT headquarters Friday, Hanson said "people are upset."

Friday, April 29, 12:01pm | The Long Beach Post has learned that a number of Long Beach Press-Telegram employees are being laid off in what appears to be the next phase of its bankrupt parent company's efforts to reorganize.

The PT's executive city editor, John Futch, and day city editor, Rose Fitzpatrick, have both received pink slips. Their positions will no longer exist effective June 30, though sources said a new news editor-type position will be created to fill their shoes. 
Additionally, the sports, photography and features departments are all being outsourced to the Daily Breeze, meaning all five of the paper's staff photographer, six sports staff writers and three features department employees stand to lose their jobs.
The photographers are Stephen Carr, Steven Georges, Jeff Gritchen, Diandra Jay and Brittany Murray.

The sports writers are Frank Burlison, David Felton, Bob Keisser, Doug Krikorian, Robert Morales and Dave Werstine. The sports department lost its editor, Joe Haakenson, almost one year ago, when he was laid off.

The features editor is Leo Smith. The features writer is Al Rudis, and the entertainment calendar compiler in the features department is Robin Deemer.

Sources at the paper said that PT employees from the three departments to be outsourced are being invited to apply for a select number of positions with the Daily Breeze.

In recent months PT staffers, along with staffers at all of the newspapers owned by the PT's parent company, have been faced with mandatory furloughs.

The PT has been reduced to a skeletal staff over the last few years thanks to previous rounds of layoffs and the wide-sweeping voluntary departure of a host of some of the paper's best and most seasoned staff writers and editors in response to the downsizing measures of its parent company, MediaNews Group Inc.

The company in February 2008  axed all of the PT's copy desk positions and did away with the design department. The functions of both have since been handled at the non-unionized Daily Breeze, also owned by Singleton, according to the So Cal Media Guild, the union representing many of the remaining PT employees.
MediaNews Group, owned by William Dean Singleton, purchased the PT in late 1997.  In recent years, the company's financial troubles, including filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization last year, have taken a harsh toll on the local publication.

PT staff writer Kristopher Hanson, who serves as a union steward at the PT, confirmed the layoffs moments ago. Additional information is forthcoming, so stay tuned for updates later today.

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