Craig Forman, the president and CEO of the McClatchy newspaper chain, is overseeing hundreds of layoffs and buyouts of reporters at its newsrooms.
At the same time, Forman is getting approximately $2.4 million in compensation — including a recent $1 million bonus and a monthly housing and travel stipend of $35,000. That’s according to the Columbia Journalism Review (CJR), which cited a January 25, 2019 report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
“The Company will pay Mr. Forman a monthly supplemental stipend in the amount of $35,000, payable monthly, subject to applicable withholdings, to offset certain unreimbursed business expenses, including a monthly housing allowance and travel allowance,” the SEC report reads.
The SEC report also states that Forman will still be guaranteed a lump sum payment of at least $1 million plus a “target Annual Cash Incentive” if he’s fired. And if he’s let go within 90 days before a change in control, or within a two-year window following a change in control, Forman is guaranteed at least $2 million, plus two times the Annual Cash Incentive.
In comparison, the Poynter Institute for Media Studies reported in 2013 that the average salary for a reporter/correspondent is roughly $43,000/year. Assuming that amount, this means that Forman’s $2.4 million compensation is equal to the combined salary of more than 55 journalists.
The news of McClatchy’s layoffs and buyouts came in the wake of newsroom layoffs at digital media outlets like BuzzFeed and HuffPost. The Miami New Times reported last week that approximately 450 reporters at McClatchy-owned papers like the Miami Herald, the Kansas City Star, the Fresno Bee, the Idaho Statesman, the Charlotte Observer, and others — all aged 55 and up — were offered early retirement with a voluntary buyout package. It wasn’t immediately clear what would happen to newspaper employees who refused the buyout offer, but Forman stressed that the current voluntary buyout offer was the only one they would receive.
“We’ve taken this action with intention, deliberation and respect for the contributions these colleagues have made to our company. It is important to us that they are empowered to decide the next steps on their career paths,” Forman wrote in the email to McClatchy employees. “This will be a one-time opportunity; we do not anticipate another voluntary early retirement program.”
The newspaper chain previously laid off 3.5 percent of its workforce in August of 2018, amounting to around 140 employees. Mary Ellen Klas, the capital bureau chief for the Miami Herald, told CJR that the layoffs and buyouts of newspaper reporters signaled a “death knell” for local journalism, and that any sacrifice should be shared between executives and staff.
“These decisions about layoffs lead me to question,” Klas says, “What other choices do you have? What sacrifices are others making at the highest parts of the chain? To me local journalism is public service. I don’t think we should expect that anyone profits. Profit is what drives our market economy, I get it, but we’re now in an existential crisis.”
Carl Gibson is a politics contributor for Grit Post. His work has previously been published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Houston Chronicle, Al-Jazeera America, and NPR, among others. Follow him on Twitter @crgibs or send him an email at carl at gritpost dot com.