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Denver Post owner Digital First Media accused of dumping employees, lying about plans

This image from the Digital First Media Facebook page was accompanied by the following message: "Change is in store as we leave 2013 and enter the new year, including the employment landscape."
This image from the Digital First Media Facebook page was accompanied by the following message: "Change is in store as we leave 2013 and enter the new year, including the employment landscape."

On Monday, we reported about layoffs at Denver Post owner Digital First Media, as well as the firm's refusal to discuss them -- a strategy that grew heavy-handed when a DFM attorney sent media blogger Jim Romenesko a legal threat for posting a graphic from an internal document listing those on the pink-slip list.

Since then, Myra Bronstein, a DFM employee who tells us she quit last month "in protest because of" the company's "pattern of mistreating and deceiving workers," provides more information about the number of workers let go and the behind-the-scenes machinations at a firm facing plenty of financial challenges.

Bronstein, who worked as a senior quality-assurance analyst for Media News Group, the company that owned the Denver Post before merging with Digital First Media, provided us with "2015 New Staffing Org Chart," an Excel spreadsheet she says was circulated by DFM Chief Technology Officer Bob Mason. (The screen capture shared by Romenesko was made using the document.) We're referring to the assorted charts rather than including them in order to protect the privacy of the past and present employees named on it. But a Facebook message Bronstein sent to John Paton, Digital First Media's CEO, under the heading "Bob Mason's distribution of highly sensitive DFM information" offers an overview of what it contains.

John Paton.
John Paton.

The message reads:

John,

I'd like to know what you think about the fact that Bob Mason, Digital First Media CTO, widely distributed a document that he authored, containing the following highly sensitive information:

• Current and upcoming staff layoffs with full names of each person -- 43 names total. • Staff members DFM is considering laying off with full names of each person -- 19 names total. • Retained staff members and the pods they're assigned to. • Dead projects (Unbolt, Saxo on BANG, Design, User Testing) and retained projects (Online Saxo). • Outside services with exact costs to be cut (Bartertown, Bright Edge, Bright Cove, Crowdy News, ERA, Email Predict). • List and costs of outside services to keep. • List and costs of maintenance fees. • Building cost.

I think it's absolutely outrageous that Bob Mason, Digital First Media CTO, distributed a list with such sensitive information. In fact, my name is on that list and greatly resent it.

I'd like to know what you think about it, and what you plan to do to mitigate the damage caused by Bob Mason's distribution of this list.

Via e-mail, Bronstein notes that Paton has yet to reply to her.

The portrait Bronstein paints of Digital First Media is far from flattering. "DFM's pattern is to hire and dump both direct employees and contractors with monotonous regularity and lie about their plans," she maintains. Here are her examples of "DFM's cyclical hiring and laying off workers":

• About three months ago they abruptly dumped 5 or 6 direct employees for some mysterious reason, at which point...Bob Mason held an all-hands meeting and assured everyone that no additional layoffs were forthcoming.

• One week later, they dumped all contractors regardless of how long they had left on their contracts.

• Around the same time they trashed project Thunderdome and the huge number of staff members on that project.

• Then on June 24, as you know, around 45 employees were kicked to the curb.

Regarding the latter, their names appear in the "staff notes" section of the spreadsheet with lines struck through them. The categories from which cuts were made include "Niche Editorial," "Mobile/Ventures," "Revenue," "Verticals," "Digital Commerce and "Business Intelligence." Continue for more about layoffs at Digital First Media.

 

A photo shared on Facebook by former Digital First Media employee Mike Noe.
A photo shared on Facebook by former Digital First Media employee Mike Noe.

Bronstein was on the spreadsheet's "cut" list along with folks such as Mike Noe, who shared the photo above on Facebook after he was given the bad news, and she's certain she would have lost her job, too, had she not resigned eleven days earlier. Here's the text from the June 13 letter she sent to supervisors explaining her decision.

All,

I told my manager Angie McCurdy that I accepted another job and I'm leaving Media News Group. My last day is June 13. Angie said [HR would] like to know the reason for my decision, so here it is.

I quit because of the callous, irresponsible and deceitful way upper management treated contractors a couple of months back. All contractors, including our excellent team member Eric [last name redacted], were dumped with very short notice regardless of how much time remained on their contracts. In Eric's case he was dumped, i.e., lost his livelihood, after only a few weeks of what was supposed to be a longer contract.

To make it even worse, one week prior to dumping the contractors upper management held a meeting announcing that some direct employees had been let go, then assured everyone that there were no more staff reductions to come. Clearly that was untrue. I have to wonder how they expect remaining workers to have confidence in them and feel good about the company, now that we've seen how they operate.

By contrast I greatly admire Angie McCurdy, my direct supervisor. She's an incredible leader and person. I've learned more from her than from any other manager I've ever had.

I simply don't want to work for a company that mistreats workers.

Thank you,

Myra Bronstein

Westword has reached out to multiple Digital First Media representatives about the layoffs, about half of which took place in Denver, a source tells us. Thus far, we have not heard back from anyone. When and if we do, we'll report about it in this space.

In the meantime, Bronstein sums up her feelings like so: "I'm utterly disgusted at DFM's habitual shabby treatment of workers."

Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.

More from our Media archive circa June 30: "Denver Post owner Digital First Media aggressively silent about layoffs."


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