CINCINNATI (TDB) -- The Cincinnati Enquirer today started offering its employees extra "vacation" -- time off without money. This used to be called a sabbatical, or leave of absence. The new personnel policy was announced in a memo from Keith Bulling, the newspaper's vice president/human resources, who outlined what he calls a "Voluntary Unpaid Vacation Program."
But the key phrase appeared in a line at the end of his memo: ''This program will have the additional benefit of helping to contain our payroll costs in these challenging times."
Jim Romenesko, who runs a Website/blog that keeps up with events and developments involving the media industry, posted the entire Enquirer missive on his site, which is easily found by Googling ''Romenesko" or "Poynter.org." I first read it there and owe a H/T to him. Overall, Bulling's spin portrayed the move to the newspaper workers as warm and positive. Others felt a chill -- an effort to get staffers off the Gannett chain's Cincinnati payroll without yet resorting to lay-offs or buyouts.
''From time to time," Bulling wrote, "we've been approached by employees who wish they had more time off. They don't have enough personal time -- sometimes it's because their spouse has amassed more vacation, or sometimes it's just special unforeseen circumstances that arise after all the employee's allotted vacation has been scheduled or taken. Whatever the reason, this program will provide people in those situations with more flexiblity to achieving a good work/life balance."
These are tough times for newspapers and newspaper people as the business skids. Clearly, the switch to the Internet for news and information has pushed them into a down-cycle. There is probably no recovery over the horizon. (FULL DISCLOSURE: I accepted an extremely generous voluntary buyout package from The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, which is much larger than the Enquirer and is restructuring to operate with a smaller staff. I hope all goes well with my Cincinnati colleagues, but I don't think it will and worse lay ahead.)