Cleveland’s ideastream stations are cutting costs and eliminating 13 jobs to address a budget shortfall caused in part by the coronavirus pandemic.
The budget cuts include a 10% reduction in operating and capital expenses, elimination of eight full-time and five unfilled positions and salary freezes for fiscal year 2021. In addition, compensation to senior managers will be reduced 10 to 20%. Citing privacy protections for employees, a spokesperson for the station declined to say which departments are affected by the job cuts.
“Five of the positions that were eliminated today were directly related to activities we can no longer perform and the other three positions were in areas where we had more than one person doing the same activity,” spokesperson Todd Mesek said in a statement.
“To offer as much compassion as possible to those who are leaving, we are offering severance pay and job support to ease the hardships caused by this separation,” wrote Kevin Martin, president and CEO, in an email to staff. “It goes without saying that every ideastream staff member is valued, but our hearts are especially extended to those who were adversely affected by this decision.”
Like other public media organizations, ideastream has been hit by declines in underwriting and event revenues during the COVID-19 pandemic. The public broadcaster has been able to make up for some losses with membership campaigns and donations from board members. It also received federal assistance through the Payroll Protection Program and CPB’s coronavirus relief fund.
“Our fundraising efforts have gone a long way toward lowering our deficit,” Martin said in a news release announcing the downsizing. “As the pandemic continues, however, our priority is to ensure that we’re in the strongest position to protect the community’s investment in ideastream, help fill the growing need for local journalism and move forward with a sustainable, long-term vision to serve the community’s needs.”
The news release said the budget cuts align with the station’s “long-term vision” and will not hinder progress on its 2019-2021 strategic plan, which guided several leadership appointments this year. These include promotions for Jenny Northern who became GM of all three stations; Mike McIntyre, executive editor; Marlene Harris-Taylor, managing producer of the health unit; and Michael Shafarenko, chief experience officer.
In addition to its PBS, NPR and classical stations, ideastream manages key services on behalf of Ohio’s public broadcasters: The Ohio Channel, which produces broadcast-quality coverage of the state government, and the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau.
The organization recently expanded its collaborations with other news media through projects such as the Statewide News Collaborative, the local Solutions Journalism Network and the reporting series Coping With COVID-19, a collaborative with Northeast Ohio journalists and media.