ideastream Lays Off 8 Employees In Coronavirus Cost-Cutting

The Idea Center, ideastream's office in Cleveland's Playhouse Square.
The Idea Center, ideastream's office in Cleveland's Playhouse Square. [Gayle Putrich / ideastream]
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Updated: 5:40 p.m., Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2020

ideastream is laying off eight employees and eliminating five vacant positions as a cost-cutting measure in response to COVID-19, CEO Kevin Martin told staff in an email Wednesday.

The company needs to cut expenses by 10 percent for the coming fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, Martin said. Declines in underwriting, corporate and foundation support and “overall uncertainty” drove the decision, he said.

The cuts are effective immediately. The company did not provide a list of the laid-off employees.

In a phone interview, Martin said the company projects declines in revenue from underwriting – the paid spots heard on the air – to hit around 30 percent.

“This isn’t a matter of right-sizing the organization, where we’re reducing our fat and excess resources,” Martin said in a phone interview. “Everyone at this point has been giving 110 percent to make sure that our listeners and viewers can rely on the services that we provide.”

ideastream currently employs 132 full-time staffers in Cleveland and Columbus. The layoffs hit the company’s arts coverage team, multimedia production, underwriting sales and other departments.

“Our highest priority was to make sure that we maintained resources of our news and information,” he said, “because we figured now, more than ever, it’s so important that we can provide that service to Northeast Ohioans.”

ideastream received a loan from the federal Paycheck Protection Program and additional CARES Act funding through the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. That money helped stave off revenue declines this fiscal year, according to Martin’s email to staff.

Executives and senior management are taking pay cuts between 10 and 20 percent and staff will receive no merit raises in the next fiscal year, he wrote.

“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,” Martin wrote. “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.”

ideastream operates Cleveland-based NPR member station 90.3 WCPN, classical radio station 104.9 WCLV and PBS affiliate WVIZ. The company also manages the Ohio Channel and the Ohio Public Radio Statehouse News Bureau. ideastream also provides educational resources throughout Ohio and produces the children’s television program NewsDepth.

The public media nonprofit reported $22.3 million in operating revenues and support in the fiscal year that ended in September 2019, excluding support with donor restrictions, according to the company’s audited financial report.  

ideastream management did not report or edit this story, nor did they review it before publication. Digital News Editor Gayle S. Putrich edited the online version of this story and an editor outside the organization edited the broadcast version.

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