Hearst Publishing promises journalists no furloughs and no pay cuts.

Hearst Publishing promises journalists no furloughs and no pay cuts.

Hearst Publishing (makers of Cosmo, Esquire, Buzzfeed, Oprah Magazines) promises journalists no furloughs and no pay cuts. They actually look to be offering raises and bonuses. Go figure.

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Bucking the newspaper industry trend, Hearst Corporation has told its newsrooms there will be no layoffs, no furloughs and no pay cuts during the course of coronavirus coverage.

In fact, Hearst CEO Steven Swartz told publishers and editors in a conference call this week, the company is giving a 1% bonus to all employees, will create an added bonus merit pool later and is waiving the budget targets that determine executive bonuses.

In addition, the company is taking out six-figure TV ad buys in some markets to promote the papers and their pandemic coverage.

The conference call was internal but summarized for The Stylist Suite from several sources who requested anonymity.

Hearst’s 24 dailies include the San Francisco Chronicle, Houston Chronicle, San Antonio Express-News, Times Union of Albany, New York, and a Connecticut group.

By contrast, Hearst appears to have decided comprehensive local reports on the pandemic and recession are an opportunity to showcase public service work and build audiences.

It helps that Hearst is a private company, a diverse and rich one. Its magazine division with Cosmopolitan and other titles was a growth engine for many years. And along the way it has made many shrewd investments in digital businesses and established an international footprint.

The company has a deep editorial and executive bench and typically promotes from within. In recent years, newspaper division head Mark Aldam became Swartz’s number two for the entire company and Jeffrey Johnson, who had been publisher of several of the larger papers, succeeded Aldam.

Aldam had a reputation among editors for tight budget control, so cutbacks are not unheard of for the Hearst group.

Hearst may be an outlier, not just in its action regarding newsrooms during the crisis but in the long game it plays generally. I would like to think, however, that Hearst’s bet pays off and inspires other deep-pocketed investors, individuals and companies, to see some business potential in the battered newspaper industry.

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