Boston Herald furloughs 30 employees

Newsrooms battered by coronavirus downturn

THE MAJORITY OF the Boston Herald’s workforce will be furloughed in the coming weeks, as steep cutbacks in advertising from coronavirus shutdowns continue to devastate already troubled newspapers across the country.

The Herald, which has 30 news and sports reporters, advertising, and circulation staff, will impose furloughs of between two to five unpaid weeks, beginning Monday and lasting through June 30, according to an internal email sent to reporters and staff by parent company Media News Group on Thursday.

The furloughs include seven full-time reporters and the seven members of the paper’s photography staff.

The Boston Newspaper Guild union, which represents the Herald employees along with those at the Boston Globe, made a joint announcement of the furloughs with Marshall W. Anstandig, senior vice president and general counsel of Media News Group.

They wrote that they had negotiated the terms of the furloughs, along with an extension of a collective bargaining agreement. Calls and emails to Media News Group were not returned.

Full-time and part-time employees covering news and photography in the editorial bargaining unit will take four weeks off, in one-week increments, beginning on Monday. While furloughed, staffers can collect unemployment and seek freelance work.

“The company will not contest unemployment claims filed by employees who are furloughed,” the Guild and Media News Group wrote.

Sports and sales department employees will have to take five weeks off.  Circulation employees will be asked to take two weeks of furlough.

Employees approached about the cutbacks declined to comment out of fear of retribution.

Vacation and paid time off can’t be used to offset furlough time. Health and life insurance benefits will continue. There is a possibility the furlough could end before June 30.

Over the next three months, there will be no layoffs of union members at the Herald, as part of the terms of the agreement. Nine employees were laid off a few weeks ago in a first round of coronavirus-related cutbacks.

The union declined to comment on the memo, but tweeted out on Friday, “The Herald newsroom — like scores of others across the country — is buckling down as budgets tighten amid widespread coronavirus pandemic-related shutdowns.”

The Lowell Sun, also owned by Media News Group, is also feeling the impact of the steep economic downturn. Some full-time Sun staff reporters have had their schedules reduced to three days a week.

Earlier this week, employees at digital newsroom MassLive were told they will face pay cuts and furloughs through the end of the year.

Meet the Author

Sarah Betancourt

Freelance reporter, Formerly worked for CommonWealth

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a long-time Latina reporter in Massachusetts. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a breaking news reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, incarceration, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a long-time Latina reporter in Massachusetts. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a breaking news reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, incarceration, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

Meanwhile, North of Boston news group’s regional publisher Karen Andreas announced Wednesday that the Eagle Tribune, Gloucester Times, Salem News, and Newburyport News would stop publishing print editions two days per week.

Society of Professional Journalists’ New England Chapter announced Friday it will provide furloughed employees, and those with hours cut at news organizations a $100 check as a part of its Pandemic Relief Fund.