ABC Tightens Belt For Bumpy Economic Ride

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ABC’s journalists are going to have to start tightening the belts on their trenchcoats in the midst of the current financial turmoil, a move likely to be duplicated at news organizations across the country.

Cutbacks were outlined in e-mail that was being circulated around the ABC News Washington bureau Wednesday evening. It was similar to one to ABC News Radio staffers that was posted on TVnewser Wednesday, though with some differences, and similar e-mails were going to other departments as cuts were being made by other managers in the company, according to a source.

"The current financial crisis is impacting businesses around the country, including ours. [ABC News President] David Westin has mandated some changes that wil save us money but not fundamentally change our ability to do our work," wrote David Reiter, who oversees all newsgathering for ABC.

Similar to the ABC Radio e-mail, Reiter says that holiday parties have been cancelled and there must be pre-approval for all non-news coverage travel. Bureaus can still have parties, but employees must fund them themselves.

One difference between the ABC Radio e-mail and the one from Reiter supplied to B&C wasa difference that had some ABC staffers concerned. "Unless absolutely necessary, we should not hire freelancers to cover vacations in the bureaus," Reiter wrote.

According to a source, the vast majority of staffers on the weekend at the D.C. bureau are freelancers. The source said some of those have already gotten calls cancelling some work, for, say, the Thanksgiving holiday. ABC had alreadly been cutting back on freelancers, according to the source.

Another difference is that the ABC News Radio e-mail says that

Below are the e-mail’s specifics:

"1. Starting immediately, the only business meals for which we will be reimbursed are those with third parties. Any meals (or drinks) with ABC or Disney employees will not be reimbursed. [in an addition to the e-mail from another ABC executive, the point was clarified to emphasize that even those "business meals" would need to be justified.

"2. Producers and correspondents on the road should only pay for their own meals and not pick up the tab for crews and others on their team. Obviously, there are situations where it makes sense for one person to pay for meals (hurricanes, etc.) and everyone needs to use common sense when it comes to location expenses. But for normal stories in the field, the company will not reimburse people if they pay for crew meals.

"3. All non-news coverage travel must be pre-approved.

"4. We’ve asked to keep any convention or conference attendance to an absolute minimum.

"5. We’ll forego all holiday parties this year. This means that the company parties in LA and NY are cancelled. If you want to have a party in your bureau or office, the company will not put money toward it or reimburse you for any expenses.

"6. Unless absolutely necessary, we should not hire freelancers to cover vacations in the bureaus.

"7. We will move all subscriptions (newspaper and magazine) to on-line. If there are particular circumstances where you believe this will materially impair your ability to get your work done or where this is impractical, you shuold make your case to your manager…"

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