HATCHET COMES DOWN AT ADVOCATE
The Independent Weekly’s Jan. 21 cover story “Chain Gang” explored the ongoing layoffs at The Daily Advertiser, whose parent company, Gannett, had been slashing its workforce at newspapers across the country for months.
The story drew a stark contrast between what was taking place here and in Baton Rouge: “At the family-owned daily, The Advocate, just 50 miles east of Lafayette, not a single job has been cut. And no layoffs are planned,” the story read. Through attrition and other cost-cutting measures, The Advocate had managed to escape the pain of personnel cuts.
“Our publisher has said, emphatically, barring some catastrophe, he does not foresee laying anyone off,” said Carl Redman, The Advocate’s executive editor. “Fortunately for us we’re home-owned. We don’t have to worry about returning some profit quota handed down from corporate headquarters. We don’t have to answer to shareholders the way a corporate-owned paper does. Our owners can be more flexible about their profit expectations.”
At the time, the paper’s employees — including the seven full-time staffers who make up the Acadiana bureau — were breathing a sigh of relief.
Until May 20.
That’s when David Manship, publisher of one of Louisiana’s most respected daily newspapers, announced 49 jobs would be slashed the following day. At press time, Acadiana Business was only able to confirm one cut in The Advocate’s Acadiana bureau — Margaret Anderson, the office manager and receptionist for more than three decades.
Unlike The Daily Advertiser, which did not publicly disclose its layoffs, The Advocate’s Manship was up front in the May 20 story, saying he wished the layoffs could be avoided but that economic conditions, particularly those associated with the national recession, forced the cost-cutting move. Manship indicated the layoffs would be felt in every department of the newspaper, involving full-time and part-time employees.
He explained that revenue from national advertisers has fallen with the closure of some major national retailers, also noting that others still in the marketplace are cutting back on advertising. Additionally, the recession has hurt classified advertising at newspapers across the country.
Further exacerbating the financial situation at The Advocate is the major capital investment in a new production facility and printing press several years ago — debt that must be serviced.
The publisher declined to say how many people were being laid off in each department, noting in the story that such details are internal personnel matters.
In a May 21 e-mail response to Acadiana Business, Redman reiterated that the paper would have no additional comment on the cuts.
MEXICAN COMPANY BUYS BORDEN
Mexico-based GRUPO LALA, one of the largest dairy companies in the world, has acquired National Dairy from Dairy Farmers of America Inc., a leading U.S. dairy cooperative.
National Dairy, based in Dallas, is one of the largest milk processing companies in the U.S. and a leading producer of branded and private-label dairy products. The company’s most recognized regional brands include Borden, Dairy Fresh, Velda Farms and Flav-O-Rich.
National Dairy, which operates 18 processing facilities in the United States — including the Borden milk processing plant on Bertrand Drive — will operate as a wholly-owned subsidiary of LALA. Officials say the existing management team will continue to lead day-to-day operations.
RETAIL SALES FALL 5% IN MARCH
While Lafayette Parish’s March retail sales are $32 million more than February’s numbers, they are down 5 percent from March 2008.
The iffy economy is making it increasingly difficult to make sense of the parish’s retail sales numbers, as sales were down 7 percent in January but rebounded slightly in February (a record amount for the month) before falling again in March.
Year-to-date total retail sales are down 3.5 percent, dipping from $1.3 billion for the first three months of 2008 to $1.25 billion so far this year.