November 3, 2016

Albuquerque Journal cuts staff, including in newsroom

New Mexico’s biggest daily newspaper is scaling back.

The Albuquerque Journal recently eliminated six positions, including one in the newsroom, according to Brian Fantl, the newspaper’s senior vice president and chief operating officer.

On top of this, five more reporters recently left the newsroom, and it’s unclear whether their positions will be refilled.

One of those positions, which belonged to staff writer Ollie Reed, is getting eliminated, Fantl confirmed. Reed was laid off Thursday.

Others “may come back on consultant agreements,” Fantl said.

The newspaper will review the other positions before making a decision but will “definitely” put someone into an assistant city editor position, Fantl said.

An internal newsroom email from late October obtained by NM Political Report suggests only one of the five departed newsroom staffers, editorial writer Sharon Hendrix, will come back “on a consulting basis.”

Reached by phone earlier in the day, Journal Managing Editor Karen Moses told NM Political Report that “we are doing some restructuring.”

“‘Layoff’ is not a word we’re using,” Moses said.

Regardless, the cutbacks are causing anxiety among employees at the newspaper, according to a source close to the situation.

Of the five non-newsroom positions getting eliminated, three are in circulation and “probably two” are in advertising, according to Fantl.

Fantl said the three circulation jobs were “no longer needed” because of “new technology” the Journal is using that “optimized the flow” of newspaper delivery routes while duties of the advertising jobs overlapped with other jobs in the department.

The decision to eliminate the five non-newsroom jobs came this week, Fantl said.

Fantl wouldn’t speak specifically about the reporters who are leaving or have already left, calling it a “personnel matter.”

But the internal email from Journal Editor Kent Walz and Manager Editor Karen Moses offers some, albeit limited, insight.

The four retiring reporters, according to the email are:

—Courts reporter Scott Sandlin, whose last day was Nov. 1.

—UpFront Columnist Winthrop Quigley, who well leave Nov. 11 (Quigley also announced his retirement publicly).

—Hendrix, who is leaving Nov. 11.

—Deputy News Editor Joe Ipsaro, whose last day was Oct. 29.

On top of this, Journal Investigative Reporter Thom Cole also left at the end of October to take a job at a competing outlet, the Santa Fe New Mexican. The New Mexican is the daily with the second-largest circulation in the state, though well behind the Journal’s circulation.

The internal Journal email noted that Cole “plans to do some part-time editing at The New Mexican,” the Santa Fe newspaper’s announcement of Cole’s hiring says he’ll also “help direct investigations and projects.”

The New Mexican has recently increased its focus on investigative stories.

Besides Cole, the email doesn’t describe the circumstances of the retirements of Sandlin, Quigley, Hendrix and Ipsaro. Fantl described the situation as two who “came in and retired” while “everyone else filed for retirement.”

Quigley wrote on Twitter he is “planning some larger writing projects.”

The Journal cutbacks come at a time of sinking advertising revenue for newspapers across the nation. Yesterday, for example, the Wall Street Journal announced layoffs in its newsroom for this reason.