Sound Publishing, owner of 43 Washington newspapers, confirmed Tuesday it has carried out a second round of layoffs, citing plummeting ad revenues in the towns it serves.
Sound’s Daily Herald in Everett reported 70 Sound Publishing workers from all departments lost their jobs Friday. Sound had started the year with about 350 employees.
Laid-off staff, who declined to speak on the record to preserve their severance pay, said they were informed via Zoom teleconference calls by Josh O’Connor, president of Sound Publishing and Publisher of The Daily Herald of Everett.
“We’re struggling to make payroll,” O’Connor said in The Daily Herald article.
O’Connor was not available on Tuesday, but in an interview Friday, O’Connor confirmed the company applied for and won one of the Payroll Protection Program loans Congress funded as part of the $2 trillion stimulus legislation to keep Americans on the job.
He said Sound might not be able to accept the loan because there was some question about the company’s status as an affiliate of a larger company. Sound is the U.S. subsidiary of one of Canada’s largest newspaper chains, Black Press, Ltd., headquartered in Surrey, B.C., south of Vancouver. Black Press also owns newspapers in Alaska, California and Hawaii. O’Connor said Sound is a U.S. company, paying U.S. taxes, so the Canadian link isn’t the problem.
In the Herald article, O’Connor raised a new issue about the PPP loan. “What we don’t know at this time is whether we’ll be eligible for the forgiveness aspect of the loan,” he said. Applicants say PPP loan guidelines have changed numerous times but that, in general, businesses may be forgiven the PPP debt if they keep their workforce. Sound has laid off 20% of its workforce.
Sound news staff who survived the first and second layoffs had their hours cut 20 to 40% and will continue to work reduced hours. So far, Sound has stopped printing 20 publications, many of them weeklies serving Seattle suburbs and commuter towns.
In Tuesday’s report, the Herald said the company is preparing to resume printing weeklies in Kent, Auburn, Federal Way, North Kitsap, Port Orchard and Forks in mid-May, which might enable some furloughed employees to return to work.