The Advocate has temporarily stopped contributing to its employees’ retirement plans. In a memo Monday, CFO Ralph Bender—citing “difficult economic times”—told employees that the board of directors has decided to suspend the company match on 401(k) plans. The suspension took effect with the payroll period that ended Friday.
Bender also says the board voted to merge the company’s profit-sharing plan into the 401(k) plan, effective June 30. “It is my hope that when times improve, this will be one of the first decisions we review,” Bender writes in the memo. “Because of you, this company has a long successful history. Thank you for your efforts and understanding.”
The decision is The Advocate’s latest response to the economic downturn that has hit the newspaper industry as a whole. Industry-wide, advertising revenues have fallen an average of 23% in the past two years. A week ago, The Advocate raised prices on home delivery and single-copy sales, and in January ended delivery to the Northshore and Washington Parish. Late last year, it also reduced the number of pages in each daily edition to cut newsprint expenses.
Other newspapers in south Louisiana are taking similar steps. The Livingston Parish News last week increased its prices, and Gannett has made cuts and initiated unpaid employee vacations at its newspapers nationwide, including The Advertiser in Lafayette.