AH Belo’s bonus bummer

February 5, 2009

Found on Romenesko on Wednesday: The Dallas Observer reports that AH Belo Corp paid out manager bonuses at the same time that the newspaper publisher said it would get rid of 500 employees. An accident of timing, especially as other U.S. newspaper publishers cut bonuses?  Here’s AH Belo Executive Vice President and Dallas Morning News chief Jim Moroney, quoted in an interview with the Observer:

Did you think the timing — announcing layoffs and handing out bonuses — was, to put it mildly, bad?

Yeah. Obviously, the bonus thing gets put into to the sequence based on approval by the board and getting it into the payroll cycle, and once you decide to make announcements, you don’t want to sit on that either. I would say it was unfortunate coincidence. If you could have control over all these things better and see father into the future, yeah, you could have tried to separate them. But I don’t think the fundamental question would change: They’d still say, ‘Should they have been paid?’ and ‘Why were they paid?’ even if we’d waited two weeks.

This could not have made employees very happy.

I am holding meetings with employees, 50 at a time, and it’s come up. I’ve had two meetings, and it’s come up in both of them. And I get cards … People don’t always raise their hands at meetings, and I want them to say what’s on their minds. So, out of 10 comment cards, two or three of them ask about the bonuses.

AH Belo, which also publishes The Dallas Morning News and The Providence Journal, set the bonus targets in 2008 — before it decided to cut jobs, Moroney said. As for 2009, there won’t be any bonuses, he added.

(Photo: Reuters)

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