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KPAX announces furloughs

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More furloughs hit Montana media last week.

The South Carolina-based Evening Post Publishing Co., the parent company of seven CBS television affiliates across Montana—including KPAX in Missoula—announced a plan March 23 in which an untold number of its employees will receive five-day unpaid vacations between April and June.

“It’s not a bad way to go,” says KPAX General Manager Bob Hermes. “It’s better than having to make cuts of personnel. Everybody kind of chips in a little bit.”

Hermes says the furloughs affect KPAX office, engineering and production staff. For some it’s mandatory, for others it’s optional. Its effects will be “pretty seamless and invisible as far as the viewing public is concerned,” he says. Hermes says he isn’t aware of any looming layoffs.

The Evening Post owns 27 newspapers and television stations around the country. One of its holdings, Cordillera Communications, owns the CBS affiliates in Billings, Bozeman, Butte, Great Falls, Helena, Kalispell and Missoula. Those seven stations employ about 200 people full-time, says Monte Wallis, general manager of KVTQ in Billings and vice president for Cordillera Communications in Montana.

“We’re all kind of in the pinch right now,” says Wallis. “Certainly we’re trying to react to that as best we can to make it through this current economic time, just like all retailers and newspapers and radio stations. We’re all stuck in the same economics, unfortunately.”

Wallis says the action takes a step beyond the hiring freezes and layoffs the company already implemented to trim expenses. Long-time KPAX journalist Ian Marquand was let go in January when his position was axed.

The Evening Post furloughs follow those handed down by Gannett Newspapers earlier in the year, a move that affected employees of the Great Falls Tribune. Many other Montana media companies have laid off dozens of employees since last summer.

“We don’t like to do those kinds of things, but rather than have layoffs, furloughs certainly are a more humane way to save money where you have to,” Wallis says. “Hopefully all of these things will be temporary, and they’ll be behind us here shortly. That’s our goal, anyway.”

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