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Fairfield Works, Alabama Media Group Downsizing

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

On Monday, August 17 U.S. Steel announced plans to close the blast furnace forever and that it was shutting down other some other operations at the historic Fairfield Works. As many as 1100 jobs could be impacted. On Tuesday, August 18 the Alabama Media Groups reportedly eliminated journalists across Alabama.

WVTM Channel 13 in Birmingham’s Fred Davenport is reporting that the proposed move by U.S. Steel would shut down the blast furnace, associated steelmaking operations and most of the location’s finishing operations.

According to original reporting by Davenport, U.S. Steel President and CEO Mario Longhi said in a statement, “We have made some difficult decisions over the last year as part of our portfolio optimization. We have determined that the permanent shut-down of the Fairfield Works blast furnace, steelmaking and most of the finishing operations is necessary to improve the overall efficiency and cost structure of our flat-rolled segment.”

The Tubular Operations and the electric arc furnace construction project would not be affected. Hundreds of employees have only been back from layoffs for two months. If approved the layoff would go into effect on November 17.

After the possible elimination of over one thousand high paying blue collar jobs, the Advance Media group terminated yet more journalists with the ‘Birmingham News’, ‘Huntsville Times’ and ‘Mobile Press Register’ were all affected.

Birmingham News reporter and columnist Kyle Whitmire who survived the carnage said on Facebook, “I saw a lot of co-workers lose their jobs today. I know one thing for certain — each and every one of them showed an astonishing degree of class and character about it, and I am in awe. I love you guys. If there is anyone out there hiring talent in media (yeah, I know that’s kind of like sending an S.O.S. to an alien planet these days) I’ve got a list for you.”

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While there are lists of the terminated employees we have looked at online, the ‘Alabama Political Reporter’ is not sure of the accuracy of those lists so is not reporting on who has been let go at this time.

Lagniappe Weekly is reporting that Newhouse is going to combine the radically downsized Alabama Media Group with its Mississippi and Louisiana assets into one new group: the Southeast Regional Media Group. Former Mobile Press Register Editor Rickey Matthews will reportedly head the new company.

Alabama has been struggling to get back on its feet since the Great Recession of 2008 to 2009. The state got hit hard when the housing bubble crashed. Banks that had been headquartered here like Montgomery based Colonial Bank closed their doors and its assets sold to big national banks.

Alabama State government has been forced to eliminate 5,100 positions from 2008 and likely will have to make layoffs itself unless new revenues are found for the state’s struggling general fund.

International Paper shut down their massive North Alabama facility in Courtland in 2014 costing over a thousand jobs and corresponding losses in truck driver and logger jobs. International Paper was the largest employer in Lawrence County.

The United Steelworkers are planning a demonstration on Friday.

The internet means that many companies buy fewer traditional advertisements. Instead of paying for an insert in the newspaper businesses build their own websites. Classifieds, real estate advertising, and car sales have abandoned the legacy newspapers for specialized web sites like Zillow and Autotrader.

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Alabama’s preliminary, seasonally adjusted June unemployment rate was 6.1 percent.

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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