A response for our readers

Editor’s note: This is an open letter written by the members of the Office of the Publisher in response to the letter that appeared in Tuesday’s issue of the Daily.

The members of the Office of the Publisher would like to clarify our position regarding the bonuses awarded to the President and Business Operations Officer, as addressed by editorial staff members in the DailyâÄôs Tuesday edition. The following is a statement drafted by the Board of Directors: âÄúThe OP bonuses are part of the established compensation package for the president, editor-in-chief and business manager âÄì an agreed-upon contract for paying and evaluating those employees through the year. As such, the OP bonuses are not perks. When the bonuses were first introduced, in fact, OP pay rates were actually reduced throughout the year. The bonuses were intended so the board could “reinstate” those pay cuts if performance merited them. The bonuses are not guaranteed but are considered three times a year through formal performance evaluations. In most cases during the past few years, bonuses have been granted in full. But there have been times when they were denied or reduced based on performance issues. For the board to simply deny bonuses without considering performance issues could be construed as a breach of contract. The awarding of OP bonuses is an established practice that cannot be discarded arbitrarily but instead requires debate and discussion to amend. The OP members voluntarily agreed to forgo their bonuses for fall semester, essentially imposing a pay cut on themselves as part of their larger response to the economic conditions at that time. Mindful of that action, the board voted unanimously last week to support spring semester bonuses for all three OP positions. No one present for that board discussion voiced concern about awarding those spring bonuses. The board is composed of Daily staff members as well as outside professionals, and both were included in the discussion. In the boardâÄôs view, all three OP did an excellent job this year of finding creative, innovative, and groundbreaking ways to manage the Daily during a time when newspapers nationally have been suffering and closing down. The Daily ended the spring semester with a net income of more than $47,000 above budget. The OP achieved that only partly through cuts, which involved not just staff compensation reductions but strategies that included merged sections, paper size reductions as well as renegotiated contracts with the DailyâÄôs auditor, printer and distributor. The OP also created new revenue streams through online, targeted marketing efforts, new advertising programs and fought hard to secure adequate funding from the university. Through the spring semester, readership of the Daily increased 18 percent because of an aggressive strategy to analyze and refigure distribution as well as efforts to strengthen the paperâÄôs content and add significant innovations to the DailyâÄôs redesigned online news product, including a new Facebook application and the use of Twitter. These actions impressed the board mightily. To deny them bonuses given these circumstances would have been unjustifiable.âÄù The decision to suspend the author of the original e-mail calling for a petition was not intended to stifle the petition but arose as a result of improper employee behavior. The e-mail that was sent was against company policy and was perceived to be an act of insubordination. We are supportive of the petition in principle, but believed that the matter should have been addressed in a manner consistent with established Daily practices. We also feel it is necessary to let our readers know that âÄúAn open letter to our readersâÄù did not reflect the views of our entire staff nor were many staff aware that there would be a letter published. Although one of our OP members is on leave this week and was unable to participate in this statement, he has shared our passion and commitment to this organization all year. Our goal as Co-Publishers of The Minnesota Daily has always been to be good stewards of the organization. The Daily is in a strong position in the midst of a very challenging time as a result of the actions that were taken this past year. We have worked hard to reduce expenses as well as implement new programs to capture revenue dollars we would not have had otherwise. We feel very proud and accomplished with the way we will be leaving the Daily. Our sincere hope is that our successors continue the same kind of dedication to the DailyâÄôs mission and success. -John Scholz, Co-Publisher and Business Operations Officer -Robin Perez, Co-Publisher and President