Newark Post owner slashes pay and hourly schedules for employees

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Newark Post owner Adams Publishing Group has slashed work hours and wages, citing an advertising downturn stemming from coronavirus.

The company, according to a memo, cut pay by 25 percent for salaried workers and reduced schedules worked by reporters by 10 hours a week.

Delaware Business Now submitted an Email seeking comment from APG Chesapeake president  James  Normandin. 

Similar moves took place among many newspapers during the financial crisis of 2009 and in later years. Employees were often furloughed for a week or more. Later, deep job cuts were made.

Delware radio news also took a hit this week when new Delmarva Broadcasting owner Forever Media reportedly laid off 10 veteran employees including long-time traffic reporter Robin Bryson and well-known news host Allan Loudell. 

The moves led to widespread condemnation by listeners.

Pay cut  moves – now and in the past,  are tough on employees (or associates as Adams prefers to call them)  – since pay scales are typically low in smaller markets.

The cuts come as Adams papers that also include the Cecil Whig in Elkton and the Star Democrat in Easton, MD struggle to cover the pandemic that has seen a spike in cases in the Newark and  Cecil areas. 

The Whig is now making pitches for advertising and for individuals to make a monetary contribution to the for-profit paper. 

“As we are all well aware, the economy is experiencing significant and rapidly evolving challenges for all businesses due to coronavirus, and APG is experiencing the same contraction,” CEO Mark Adams wrote in a memo to employees. “Now more than ever, it has become even more critical that we be financially and immediately responsive to those market conditions.”

Adams acquired the parent company of the Whig, Star Democrat and Post as part of an aggressive plan to acquire small and mid-market newspapers around the country that saw a sharp slide in value, due to the 2009 recession.

Newspapers failed to recapture retail and classified advertising, even when the economy began to recover. 

Adams, gambling on the value of smaller market newspapers,   grew to 100 daily and weekly papers in an area extending from Oregon to Maryland and Delaware.

In most cases, Adams profited from previous owners slashing costs that included getting rid of veteran employees making higher salaries. In the case of the Post, its Newark office was closed. Staffers work remotely.

The Post was acquired by Adams as part of a purchase of a large piece of American Consolidated Media.  ACM  had been owned by an Australian company that defaulted on loans and turned over its operations to its lenders. 

Family-owned Adams moved slowly in making changes but in the past couple of years began pushing out long-time executives such as former ACM President David Fike. The company bluntly announced that Fike was no longer associated with the company and did not offer the usual words of praise that come with such announcements.

The Minnesota family, said to have a net worth of $1 billion,  owns a number of businesses that include billboard companies, radio stations on the Delmarva Peninsula and elsewhere, and the Camping World recreational vehicle dealerships.

Company founder Stephen Adams’ holdings include wineries in France and the Napa Valley.

The Adams family is known for keeping a low profile that includes not commenting on its businesses, one exception being newspaper purchases.

Unlike legendary  Omaha investor Warren Buffett (Geico, Burlington Northern Santa Fe)  who soured on the industry, Adams continued its newspaper buying spree into 2019 when it acquired papers in Wisconsin.

Adams has added a website that features information on its properties and lists top executives that include APG CEO and family member Mark Adams. The company has corporate offices in Greenville, TN.

(Correction: Early versions of this story stated that the Whig had kept its paywall in place. The Whig allows access but requires visitors to register).

(Editor’s note: The author is a former editor for Adams’ predecessor ACM Chesapeake)

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