Those Times, P-I Death Rattles

While Seattle Times employees mull over a proposed 12 percent cut in pay and benefits requested by the publisher, workers at the Times' paper in Yakima, the Herald-Republic, just approved some givebacks to the Blethen family ownership. They include the end of a 2-percent annual contribution made by the company to employees' 401(k) plan accounts, and a change in holiday pay, says Liz Brown, administrative officer of the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Guild. The cuts are comparatively small - the H-R is still profitable, unlike the Times - and were made to minimize staff layoffs expected to be announced next week. But "If you think being unemployed in Pugetopolis is bad," says Brown, "try it in Yakima, where job opportunities are far fewer and the pay less."

Meanwhile, says Brown, workers at the P-I, facing closure, are making efforts to find funding for an online news site. Hearst has not said for sure if it will keep the P-I's website operational. "Most of the P-I efforts are underground at this point, in part because employees are worried about repercussions if they attempt a startup venture that Hearst would see as a competitor," she writes on her blog. "Personally, I fail to see how Hearst could go after its employees for trying to create jobs in journalism when the company is destroying them. Bring that one on."

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