Inquirer, Daily News Parent Files for Bankruptcy

Newspaper Guild President asks members to stay calm

By Vince Lattanzio
|  Monday, Feb 23, 2009  |  Updated 5:36 PM EDT
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Readers Sound Off on Bankrupt Newspapers

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Readers Sound Off on Bankrupt Newspapers

Readers react to the news that Philadelphia's two largest daily newspapers are bankrupt.
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Philadelphia Newspapers LLC, the parent company of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News and Philly.com, announced Sunday it has filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy protection.


Read Brian Tierney's Email to Staff


The company says it is looking to restructure $390 million in debt and decided to pursue Bankruptcy Court following 11 months of negotiations with lenders.

“This restructuring is focused solely on our debt, not our operations,” chief executive Brian Tierney said in a statement.

He said the filing would not affect the media company’s daily operations.

Newspaper Guild President Dan Gross notified members about the filing in a letter. He asked members to stay calm and to still report to work:

Dear Guild Member,

As you all should be aware, Philadelphia Media Holdings, (”PMH”), the owner of the Philadelphia Inquirer and The Daily News, has filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy protection.

As hard as it may sound, please stay calm. The company is still in business, the papers are still publishing and you should still report for work.

Here is what this means to our members and how the filing affects our contract:

The Chapter 11 Bankruptcy process is intended to permit a company to continue in operation by restructuring its contractual and financial obligations. Because Guild members provide essential services, your wages and benefits under our collective bargaining agreement for services rendered, after the petition was filed, will continue to be honored.

Before PMH can take any action to modify any of its obligations under our contract, it must negotiate in good faith with the Guild and prove that the contract changes it seeks are necessary to permit the reorganization and prevent the liquidation of the enterprise.

The Guild Executive Board has already taken steps to assure that we obtain all of the bankruptcy filings. We will monitor the proceedings and take appropriate action to enforce our collective bargaining agreement and protect your rights.

Even though a bankruptcy petition has been filed:

Our contract remains in full force;
Your wages and benefits will continue to be paid;
We retain the right to grieve and arbitrate contract disputes; and
No unilateral changes to our contract can be implemented without prior negotiations.

If the Employer requests that we meet to negotiate contract modifications, we will, of course, immediately notify you of any such negotiations. As in all collective bargaining situations, we will bring any tentative agreements involving modifications/changes to our contract to the members for ratification. In addition, we will keep you advised of all developments during the bankruptcy, especially any events that involve the Guild contact, your rights, and the Employer’s obligations pursuant to it.

The Guild’s Executive Committee will convene in an emergency board meeting at 10 a.m. Monday and will issue further news as we have it. In the meantime, members may contact the Guild office at [REDACTED] or Administrative Officer Bill Ross at [REDACTED] or e-mail [REDACTED].

In solidarity,

Dan Gross
President

 

A group of investors led by Tierney, a former advertising executive, bought the two Philadelphia papers and their digital property for $562 million in June 2006.

According to the Audit Bureau of Circulations, the Inquirer had an average weekday circulation of 300,674 as of Sept. 30, down 11 percent from the prior year. That made it the nation's No. 19 daily by circulation.

The paper's Sunday circulation averaged 556,426 as of Sept. 30, down 14 percent from the prior year. It ranks as the eighth-largest Sunday paper.

Philadelphia Newspapers LLC is the second newspaper company in two days, and fourth in recent months, to seek bankruptcy protection. The Journal Register Co. filed for Chapter 11 on Saturday. The Chicago-based Tribune Co. sought bankruptcy protection in December, and The Star Tribune of Minneapolis followed suit last month.

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