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Not-bad news for St. Cloud Times, Brainerd Dispatch

A lengthy pay freeze ends in St. Cloud, and Brainerd’s corporate parent shucks a big chunk of debt.
By David Brauer

Fair is fair; having reported on pay cuts and furloughs at the St. Cloud Times, and the bankruptcy of the Brainerd Dispatch’s owner, it’s time to relay some relatively good news.

St. Cloud first; the paper’s owner, mega-publisher Gannett Co., has announced it will lift a wage freeze for its community newspaper division April 1. (Snarkified version here.) Times folk are still suffering with furloughs for the quarter ending March 31; the memo doesn’t make any promises about preventing furloughs or layoffs in the post-April Fool’s Day period.

As for Brainerd, its Georgia-based owner, Morris Publishing, expected to emerge from Chapter 11 quickly after a Jan. 19 filing. Management filed a “pre-packaged” bankruptcy in which creditors agreed to terms beforehand. According to Editor and Publisher, $278.5 million in debt, due 2013, was canceled in exchange for $100 million due in 2014; Morris family entities kicked in approximately $110 million. Even though a third of the can was kicked a year down the road, officials note a “significantly de-leveraged” balance sheet. Hopefully it’s enough to keep the locals from being bled any more than they already might have been.