Details on Wide ‘Seattle Times’ Cuts Emerge: Layoffs and Closing Bureaus

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By: Joe Strupp

The Seattle Times, claiming the effects of continued declines in advertising revenue, confirmed plans, which leaked yesterday, to cut nearly 200 staffers, more than half through layoffs, the paper reported Tuesday.

It also plans to close two suburban bureaus and stop running zoned editions in two neighboring counties. The cuts and reorganization are aimed at saving some $15 million, the paper said.

Spokeswoman Jill Mackie would not be specific about other cuts, except to say that “there will be some changes that will affect both readers and advertisers,” the Times reported.

“The staff reductions will include up to 131 layoffs, the company said in an e-mail to employees. Sixty unfilled positions will be frozen,” the paper said, adding that the Times has 1,845 full-time and part-time employees.

“We had hoped the expense reductions made at the beginning of the year would prevent the need for further downsizing, but that is not the case,” Publisher Frank Blethen and President Carolyn Kelly said in another e-mail to employees Monday, first printed by the local alt-weekly, The Stranger, and then E&P.

Among the changes, the paper will close its suburban bureaus in Bellevue and Lynnwood, lay off nearly every reporter in those locations, and cut zoned editions for the Eastside and Snohomish County.

“Vice President Alayne Fardella said in an e-mail to employees that up to 45 circulation workers, 30 newsroom employees and 24 advertising staff could be laid off,” the Times reported. “The exact number will depend on how many employees choose to accept buyouts and leave voluntarily.”

Employees have until next Monday to make decisions on taking buyouts, the paper reported.

Newsroom staff members who attended a meeting with Executive Editor David Boardman said they were told at least 16 employees in that department will be laid off, regardless of how many choose to depart voluntarily, the paper said.

Monday’s moves follow $21 million The Times cut from its budget earlier this year, including 17 layoffs, mostly circulation workers.

Mackie would not rule out further cuts or layoffs. “We have no choice but to bring our expenditures in line with our revenues,” she said.

The Seattle Times company has faced tough economic times for several years, launching an effort years ago to end its JOA with the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, claiming repeated annual losses. A lawsuit by the P-I to stop the move ended in a settlement last year that allowed both papers to continue for at least eight more years in the agreement.

Just weeks ago, Blethen announced plans to sell the company’s chain of four newspapers in Maine, which include the Portland Press-Herald.

P-I Publisher Roger Oglesby told the Times that no layoffs were planned at his paper, but added, “I will never rule out the possibility they might happen, and they might happen at any time.”

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