Amid department-wide layoffs, furloughs and pay reductions at the Colorado Springs Gazette, Publisher Steve Pope received two bonuses totaling $30,000.
Bonuses to Pope, who took his job earlier this year, were among $3.7 million in management by objective bonuses paid to top Freedom Communications executives during the past year, according to the Colorado Springs Business Journal’s sister publication, the Arizona Capitol Times, which cited federal bankruptcy filings.
MBOs are paid when employees meet predetermined criteria or goals.
At least 45 Freedom executives were paid bonuses before the company filed for bankruptcy Sept. 1.
Former Gazette Publisher Scott McKibben, who left Freedom late last year, received a $25,000 payment within the last year.
Former Freedom CEO Scott Flanders, who left the company to take over the adult entertainment company Playboy, received two bonuses totaling more than 1.1 million.
Freedom Vice President and Publisher of the East Valley Tribune in Arizona, Julie Moreno, who announced this week that the paper will cease publication at the end of the year, took $28,000 in extra pay earlier this year.
Former Internet Director and Gazette employee of 12 years, Ginny Greene, who was laid off last year, estimated that between 50 and 60 people have been laid off from the Gazette during the last two years.
“For a while there, we were having layoffs every week,” she said.
During the last year, the Gazette has instituted mandatory furloughs and across-the-board pay cuts to save money.
Gazette Vice President of Marketing Liz Cobb said that neither she nor Pope wished to comment about the number of layoffs or about Pope’s bonuses.
“It’s hard to say exactly why these bonuses were paid,” said Rick Edmonds, media and business analysts for the Poynter Institute, a nonprofit journalism school that tracks the industry.
“It’s pretty hard to argue that this company has been successfully managed,” he said, “but that’s what bonuses are supposed to be all about. But, what a company might argue is that it needs to retain good managers, so the pay is worth it. Life goes on with these businesses, and you need talented people to do it.”
Butch Ward, a distinguished fellow with the Poynter Institute and former managing editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer, said news of large bonuses paid to CEOs of failing companies is troubling but understandable.
“I think it’s fair to say that media corporations operate increasingly like corporate America,” he said. “Bonuses have always existed in the media industry. The question is should those continue when a company is announcing layoffs and financial troubles. Things like this just increase the perception that corporate executives are out of touch with the people they manage and the communities they serve.”