‘New York Post’ buyouts focus on ‘loyal soldiers ... highest paid’

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The New York Post stands to lose a sizable chunk of its longstanding institutional memory as newsroom employees who were offered buyouts last week decide whether or not to jump ship with exit packages.

A list of around 10 Post journalists who are said to have been offered buyouts has been circulating among veterans of the tabloid. Those on the list are mostly older, longtime reporters and editors.

"Loyal soldiers. Highest paid. Have pensions as well," said one former Post employee familiar with the matter.

None of them responded to requests for comment. But two who have definitely taken buyouts, according to sources with direct knowledge of their plans, are acting political editor Tom Topousis and reporter Douglas Montero, whose farewell party at House of Brews last night was attended by an array of old-timers. One insider said the packages have been described as "very generous, eye-opening generous."

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The total number of buyout offers was unknown to us as of the time of this writing. Sources likewise could not confirm the total newsroom headcount, but one knowledgeable former employee put the core news team, not including sports and features, at somewhere between 60 and 75. The Post has historically been a leaner operation than its rival, the Daily News.

A spokesperson for the Post declined to comment.

Last Thursday, as first reported on Capital, Post editor-in-chief Col Allan announced to his staff that the paper was seeking a 10-percent headcount reduction through voluntary buyouts and "other measures if necessary."

Newsroom downsizing has become all too familiar at papers throughout the industry. But it seems particularly significant at the Post, which has managed to avoid such cullings over the past two decades even as it hemorrhages money. The paper's circulation is down as well.

The buyouts follow a round of layoffs on the business side, where nine sales positions were recently eliminated in what publisher Jesse Angelo described in a March memo as a streamlining of marketing and ad operations. They're being negotiated as the Post's parent entity, News Corp., prepares to separate its publishing properties, which also include The Wall Street Journal and various newspapers in the U.K. and Australia, from the company's television and film assets.

As a result of the split, which will create two separate publicly traded companies, the publishing titles will no longer be cushioned by more lucrative brands such as Fox News. But after the expected completion of the split at the end of June, they will start fresh with no debt and $2.6 billion in cash.

One media analyst has estimated that the Post's annual losses are as high as $110 million. But the paper has long been wrapped in a special insulant: News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch's devotion to it.

That said, it's unclear what exactly precipitated the newsroom cuts or how much a 10-percent staff reduction will stanch the flow of red ink.

"They're getting costs under control on all fronts," one Post employee suggested, referring to News Corp.

What's more apparent is that the Post has been bidding farewell to a number of its heavyweights lately.

Aside from the potential buyout takers, longtime reporter Dan Mangan resigned earlier this month for a reporting gig at CNBC.com. He follows political reporter Josh Margolin, who's now at ABC News; former Albany bureau chief Erik Kriss, who took a communications position with AARP; and transit reporter Jen Fermino, who the Daily News nabbed as its City Hall bureau chief.

Know of anyone else who's taken a buyout or been offered one? Drop me a line: joe@capitalnewyork.com.