Gannett Bastards Screw Over Employees, Siphon State Resources

New Times and the Arizona Republic used to be fiercely competitive -- and we used any slip-ups on their part as an excuse to point out how much better we were.

Today, in this brutal time for newspapers, we're just mourning their losses. Which is why we found a story in yesterday's New York Times so damn infuriating. Basically, the Times reports, those corporate bastards at Gannett are no longer giving any severance to the employees that it lays off -- meaning those employees are now reliant on the State of Arizona for unemployment benefits. Gannett is paying some "supplemental employment benefits," but only in some cases.

That means some of these poor ex-journalists are getting $265, max, per week. As the Times explains, Arizona has among the lowest unemployment benefits in the nation. Shocker!

And even though $265 a week is a mere pittance -- how can they even cover the bar bill with that sum, much less a mortgage? -- it also penalizes people who opt to do freelance work. The article says that if a laid-off writer took a freelance job that netted more than $265 in any given week, they'd lose benefits entirely.

The Times story profiles Jenny Poon, a 26-year-old art director who lost her job in the most recent round of layoffs.

The company says that for most employees the result will be about the same [under its new unemployment package] -- that in fact, many will get a little more, and a few could get much more. But employees are discovering that some of them, like Ms. Poon, stand to get a lot less than they would have under the old severance packages, and some will get nothing.

Ms. Poon, 26, has a graphic design business that generates a little income, which will lower her state unemployment benefits and may be enough to wipe them out entirely. She is awaiting the state's ruling to learn which. And if she is not eligible for payments from the state, she will receive nothing from Gannett.

Overall, the whole thing sounds really, really lousy ... for the already-strapped state and for the former workers. We've got no schadenfreude over this one, only empathy.