‘Mercury News’ To Axe Up to 101, Including 15% of Newsroom

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The San Jose Mercury News plans to lay off as many as 101 employees over the next two months to cut costs and make up for declining advertising revenue, the paper said Friday.

The company will eliminate 41 newsroom positions – or about 15 percent of its editorial staff – by Dec. 19, with the rest of the cuts coming from other departments including circulation, finance, marketing and human resources, said Dan Breeden, a Mercury News spokesman.

The cuts, which officials say will be made mostly through layoffs, will sever about 8 percent of the paper’s overall workforce. About 10 to 15 currently open positions across the company could be included in those cuts, Breeden said.

The company does not yet know which employees will be laid off, and all employees in targeted departments were notified about the plans.

“It’s an economic decision,” Breeden said. “We’re preparing for needing to lay off 101, but it’s really our hope that the cuts don’t go quite so deep.”

Newspapers across the country have been slashing staff as investors have increasingly demanded they maintain their profit margins amid declining revenues.

Also Friday, the new publisher of The Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News told employees that layoffs are “unavoidable.”

The job cuts in San Jose come after Denver-based MediaNews Group Inc. acquired the Mercury News from McClatchy Co. in August, establishing itself as the largest newspaper publisher in the San Francisco Bay area with more than 700,000 subscribers.

It also acquired the Contra Costa Times in the same deal. Publisher John Armstrong said Friday that Editor Chris Lopez was leaving the paper, but no other layoffs were planned.

Armstrong said in a statement to staff that Lopez’s position had become “redundant” as the company consolidated its Bay Area news operations.

“Given the serious revenue pressures all newspapers are facing … we cannot afford any redundancy, especially at the senior management level,” he said.

In a story published in August in the Times, Mercury News Publisher George Riggs discussed the deepening financial woes facing the newspaper industry. He said papers would have be become “super, super efficient” about costs and suggested they become “the Wal-Mart of information purveyors.”

Riggs said in a note to his staff that the company was required to give the 60-day notice under state law.

“I understand the uncertainty these staffing cuts create for everyone, and deeply regret that we have to take this action,” Riggs said in the note. “Please know that we would not do so unless it was absolutely necessary to ensure the future viability of our newspaper.”

The paper is also negotiating three separate union contracts. Luther Jackson, executive officer for the San Jose Newspaper Guild, said the cuts come at a particularly painful time for the paper, as more than 50 guild workers took buyouts in November.

“Our concern is, you keep making cuts and cuts, and at what point does it hurt the quality of the product?” he said. “That’s what we need to draw revenues. I don’t see how this benefits the paper.”

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