Seeing ‘sustained’ downturn, MPR predicts staff cuts

Originally published in Current, June 9, 2008
By Karen Everhart

Minnesota Public Radio last week notified employees it will reduce their number for the new fiscal year starting July 1.

The St. Paul-based pubradio network and its sister distribution arm, American Public Media, have added more than 100 employees since 2004 — enlarging the staff from 380 to 489 — and now looks to pare the roster and to balance the budget for fiscal 2009, Chief Operating Officer Jon McTaggart explained in a staff memo obtained by the online daily MinnPost.

“Like many organizations, our rate of revenue growth has slowed with the U.S. economy, and that is a key factor in how we are budgeting for the coming year,” McTaggart wrote. For fiscal 2009, “we are assuming that the current weakness in the economy will be significant and sustained. As a result we are lowering our tolerance for revenue risks, lowering our expectations for revenue growth and increasing our budget contingencies.”

MPR managers look to reduce the payroll by eliminating jobs, freezing open positions and redeploying staff, McTaggart wrote.

Decisions about which divisions will lose staff are pending, according to Brad Robideau, spokesman. “We are evaluating everything to see where we can make the greatest impact.”

“Over the past five years we’ve invested significantly across the organization, and we just want to make sure that the revenue we get is used wisely and we’re good stewards of our members’ dollars,” Robideau said.

MPR/APM’s staff has grown as the organization added Performance Today and SymphonyCast to its national programming lineup, expanded its digital media operations and began using Public Insight Journalism techniques, Robideau said.

MPR also launched a new Triple A music service, The Current, in 2005, after purchasing classical WCAL from a local college. Last year, its parent company American Public Media Group bought a religious station in Miami and began operating it as Classical South Florida, WKCP.

“My sense of it is, it’s not a big thing for the company—it’s a warning that we might need to slow down growth,” said an APM employee who requested anonymity. Management announcements of belt tightening are typical at this stage of the company’s budget cycle, the employee said.

Web page posted June 12, 2008
Copyright 2008 by Current LLC

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Now it's MPR's turn to cut back, says David Brauer's headline in MinnPost.com.

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