Kansas City Star publisher Mi-Ai Parrish‘s” memo to co-workers re widespread reports and commentary on the controversial decision to make two reporters – Karen Dillon and Dawn Bormann – duke it out or hug it out to decide which of them takes a layoff bullet.
“Some of you have seen online reports regarding the recent layoffs at The Star,” Parrish begins. “We want to be clear that we did not ask our employees to work out any decisions amongst themselves.
“As most of you know, The Star has tried to make voluntary options available on many occasions when it has been necessary to make reductions in our workforce, in order to lessen the impact of involuntary eliminations. In fact, the feedback we’ve received from employees has been overwhelmingly in favor of making the voluntary option available. For this particular severance program, for any group of two or more employees in which a reduction is to occur we did offer a voluntary option. However, if there are no volunteers, as is our past practice, the employee with the least tenure will be included in the reduction. This information was clearly indicated to those employees affected by the severance program.”
Hold it right there.
While that certainly puts as positive a spin as imaginable on the matter, it still boils down to telling two people – coworkers and fellow reporters – that one of them must go. And that unless one of them decides to take the hit the less tenured will be laid off.
It also clearly leaves Dillon in a position of having to fall on her own sword or effectively throw Bormann under the bus. With both women well aware in advance of the choice and consequence.
In past voluntary layoffs – early on nearly five years ago to my recollection – a notice was given to employees asking for them to come forward if they wished to take the severance package and leave the newspaper.
Longtime Star reporter Jeff Spivak comes to mind as one of the staffers who opted to do so.
However nobody told Spivak or anybody else that it was either him or another reporter that had to go.
“We find it unfortunate the way the situation has been portrayed, and we are very sorry for the impact on the employees involved,” Parrish’s memo concludes. “We will continue to work with all employees affected by this severance program to help them transition through this difficult time made even more difficult by the misinformation being reported.”
Is that why Dillon confirmed the story to respected journalism / media monitor Jim Romenesko and told him that “we’ve not made an official decision” on who gets to stay and, “It’s one of the most difficult situations I’ve ever faced.”
Dillon must have meant, it was one of the most difficult “voluntary” decisions she’s ever faced.
One staffer’s take on Parrish’s memo:
“It’s like putting a racing stripe on a turd. At the end of the day, it’s still a turd.”
The other stories: