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Gannett to lay off 3000, LAT sacks 10% of news staff, 100-yr-old newspaper goes off print

Gannett to lay off 3000, LAT sacks 10% of news staff, 100-yr-old newspaper goes off print
The masthead on the front page of the Christian Science Monitor is seen in Boston Monday, October 27, 2008. A century after it began publication, the Christian Science Monitor is giving up its daily print edition to focus on posting news online. The international newspaper, started in Boston by the founder of the Christian Science Church, plans to print its final daily editions in April. After that, it will print only a weekend edition.Photo: Associated Press (AP)

Gannett Company, the largest newspaper chain in the US, is slashing about 3,000 jobs and the 100-year-old Christian Science Monitor is ending its print edition, the latest cost-cutting moves in a beleaguered US newspaper industry. Last week, the Los Angeles Times announced its decision to lay off 10 per cent of its news staff, while the Star-Ledger newspaper in New Jersey said about 40 per cent of its newsroom staff will depart in a buyout wave.

The Gannett layoffs will not apply to the company’s flagship paper, USA Today, but to the company’s 84 other daily newspapers in the United States, and more than 800 small, nondaily local papers, the New York Times reported. The announcement does not include Gannett’s hundreds of small papers in Britain. [Link]

The 10 per cent figure translates to roughly 3,000 people, but Tara O’Connell, the corporate vice president in charge of communications, said the calculation was not as simple as laying off one-tenth of those people. “It’s really a target amount of money each paper has to cut,” which the company will not discuss, and there are multiple ways of arriving at it, she said. Each paper has until mid-November to arrive at a plan, and until then, “we don’t know how it’s going to play out,” she said.

In a memo to sent to employees on Tuesday, Robert J Dickey, president of the company’s United States community publishing division, wrote that “while this is more bad news, it is a sign of Gannett’s determination to remain healthy and viable as a company during these turbulent economic times.”

On Friday, Gannett reported a 32.5 per cent decline in third-quarter income from the previous year, to $158 million. More troubling was the 17.7 per cent drop in newspaper advertising revenue, the company’s primary source of revenue.

The Christian Science Monitor on Tuesday announced it will abandon its weekday print edition and appear online only, its publisher announced Tuesday. The Monitor's circulation has fallen from a peak of 230,000 in 1970 to about 50,000 now, while its online traffic has soared. The newspaper gets about 5 million page-views per month, compared with about 4 million five years ago and 1 million a decade ago.

The Associated Press (AP) had some backgrounder: [Link]

Come April, the Boston-based general-interest paper — founded in 1908 and the winner of seven Pulitzer Prizes — will print only a weekend edition after struggling financially for decades, its editor announced Tuesday.

"Obviously, this is going to help with our costs, but it also enables us to put much more emphasis on the Web and basically put our reporting assets and our editorial assets where we think growth will be in a very tough industry in the future, which we think is the Web," said Editor John Yemma, who was the Boston Globe's multimedia editor before he moved to the Monitor in June.

Andie Tucher, an associate professor at Columbia University's Graduate School Of Journalism, said the Monitor has traditionally been a newspaper people read for in-depth articles after they get local news from a local or state newspaper. With even small newspapers being squeezed by the Web, it makes sense that a "second read" like the Monitor would be harder hit.

"That's the real crisis for papers like this. Rather than reading that as my second or third paper, I now go online and browse Slate and Salon and the political sites, and I can read any other paper I like. It becomes much less urgent to indulge in the Christian Science Monitor," said Tucher, who teaches a course on the history of American journalism.

The Los Angeles Times on Monday announced plans to cut 75 jobs, or 10 per cent of its news staff, Reuters reported. The cuts are comparable in scale to some that the Times made on the business side of its operations last week, Editor Russ Stanton told employees in an email message that the Times posted on its website on Monday. [Link]

Some extracts from the Reuters report:

It is the second round of news staff layoffs since a previous round was announced in July. The paper has offered buyouts and has cut back staff levels in its news operations from a high of some 1,200 a bit less than a decade ago. A Times spokeswoman declined to comment on the news.

The Times is the largest daily paper owned by Chicago-based Tribune Co, which also publishes the Sun in Baltimore, the Hartford Courant and the Orlando Sentinel. It also is one of the largest US papers, with circulation of about 780,000 -- in the same league as the Washington Post, and closer to the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal than many other big-city dailies.

The company, which was taken private last year by real estate mogul Sam Zell, is looking for ways to pay back billions of dollars in debt, and has cut staff at most of its papers. It sold the Newsday newspaper on Long Island in New York to Cablevision Systems Corp and is looking to sell the Chicago Cubs baseball team and its ballpark, Wrigley Field.

Despite an estimated $13 billion in debt on Tribune's books, the company is considering whether it can buy the Orange County Register of Orange County California, or combine some of its production and distribution operations, the Financial Times newspaper reported on October 22.

The Star-Ledger of Newark, New Jersey, will reduce its newsroom staff by nearly half through voluntary buyouts. Jim Willse, the Star-Ledger's editor, said Friday last that the newspaper accepted 151 buyout offers from its news staff, or about 45 per cent of its 334 editorial employees, the Associated Press (AP) reported. He said 17 buyout applications were rejected. Some staffers already have left, and others are leaving by year's end, many after the elections. [Link]

"We've got from now to the end of the year to figure out what adjustments we have to make," Willse said. "We will be able to produce an abundance of good stories. We will still have a good paper but we have to figure out exactly how to accomplish that."

The number of buyouts accepted outside the newsroom was not immediately known. The newspaper had sought at least 200 total, out of 750 full-time, nonunion workers, and received more than enough applications. Two unions agreed to another 120 buyouts combined.

The Star-Ledger, with daily circulation of about 350,000, has posted losses for at least three straight years and was on pace to lose between $30 million and $40 million in 2008. The newspaper won union concessions and enough voluntary buyout applications from nonunion employees to lift a threatened sale or closure by January.

Date posted: October 29, 2008 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 1089