Lee Enterprises cuts designers



As part of an ongoing effort to cut expenses, the Missoulian's parent company, Lee Enterprises, has notified at least eight employees at three of its Montana newspapers that their jobs are being terminated because the company is shipping a portion of its graphic design work overseas.

"Those jobs have been outsourced, I believe it was to India," says Kathy Yankoff from the Montana Department of Labor, which helps people who have lost jobs to outsourcing find new employment and access training programs.

Yankoff says that in order to receive help from the DOL the Lee staffers must have been notified that their jobs would be terminated. According to the agency, five Billings Gazette employees, one from the Helena Independent Record and two from Butte's Montana Standard have been terminated or given notice.

"I believe they were all graphic designers," Yankoff says.

In 2005, Lee acquired the Pulitzer Newspaper chain and took on $306 million of its debt. Economic turmoil, along with the difficulties newspapers have faced maintaining profit margins during an increasingly internet-dependent era, have exacerbated Lee's financial challenges. Months after the company emerged from a Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization last year, two Missoulian senior staffers accepted buyout offers. According to Lee, the company had 8.2 percent fewer full-time employees during the fiscal quarter that ended March 31 than it did during the same period the year prior.

In October, Lee Vice President Carl Schmidt told investors how the company planned on regaining its financial footing. He said overall newspaper design would increasingly be completed at regional hubs and that the company is "in the early stages of outsourcing the bulk of our ad production ..."

Lee's bankruptcy filings note that it had a trade debt of $55,554 to Express KCS, based out of Pittsburgh. According to the company's website, "Express KCS is the leading independent provider of offshore marketing production services ... Our clients have maintained quality levels whilst dramatically reducing labor rates, achieving as much as 60% reduction in operational costs."

Missoulian Publisher Jim McGowan would not comment about whether the newspaper is outsourcing jobs. He did acknowledge, however, that the publication has recently eliminated one graphic design position. "It was more of a job reclassification," McGowan said. "Whether that's supposed to stay dark or not, I'm not sure."

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