By: M.L. Stein
More staff reductions in wake of New York Newsday closing sp.
IN THE WAKE OF its closure of New York Newsday, Times Mirror Corp. (TMC) announced a series of new cost-cutting measures, including dropping more than 1,000 employees from its seven newspapers.
Seven hundred of the staff reductions will be effected at the Los Angeles Times, although 230 jobs there previously were eliminated through voluntary retirements.
Times spokeswoman Laura Morgan said that about 450 more employees ? 130 to 160 in editorial ? will be slashed from the payroll through voluntary retirements, buyouts and layoffs. More than 750 jobs vanished with New York Newsday’s shutdown.
Layoff notices were given to Times employees beginning July 21. Full-timers whose positions were eliminated received a severance package of up to one year’s pay, health benefits and outplacement assistance.
In addition, the Times announced it will drop three sections: the Sunday City Times, aimed at inner city readers; Nuestro Tiempo, the weekly Spanish-language tabloid; and the Tuesday World Report. Also to be cut is the paper’s Washington Edition, a streamlined version of the Times, published Monday through Friday for East Coast distribution.
The excised sections have contributed to the Times status as a world class newspaper, which it has striven for years to be.
Other parings include the paper’s twice-weekly Westside section, which will be replaced by a new local news section to be produced by California Community News Corp. (CCN), a Times Mirror subsidiary that publishes community papers in Los Angeles and Orange Counties.
“Over the past few years, the Times and its people have done a superb job of adapting our paper to Southern California’s dramatically changed economic conditions and producing top-quality journalism,” said publisher Richard T. Schlosberg III. “We still face softness in the Southern California economy and dramatic increases in newsprint are adding to our financial pressures.”
Schlosberg said the Times will concentrate its resources on the main paper and its “sizable regional franchises.”
He termed the expunged sections unprofitable, but said that the Times planned to provide much of their news and advertising in other formats.
In reference to job eliminations, he noted that the Times’ news department will still total over 1,100, one of the largest of any U.S. newspaper.
In a letter to the staff, editor Shelby Coffey III said the paper’s strategy will be to focus on the Times’ “strengths as a strong provider of news, analysis, investigative and literary journalism. We will have to concentrate on the main paper, and not add as many sections as our natural creative urges might lead us to.”
Actually, the Times’ downsizing began in 1990 with a number of cost-cutting initiatives that included a 29% staff reduction throughout the paper.
Among other steps were restructuring press operations, consolidating circulation delivery agent centers from 250 to 49, folding the San Diego edition, and discontinuing three weekly suburban sections.
Times circulation today is 1,058,498 daily and 1,457,583 on Sunday.
In its announcement, Times Mirror said it plans to “refocus resources” on its core newspaper, professional information and magazine businesses and to improve its financial performance.
Other money-saving measures, according to the notice, will be the closing of Times Mirror’s corporate Washington, D.C. office and the ending of funding, by year-end, for the prestigious Times Mirror Center for the People & the Press.
Previously eliminated was Times Mirror Multimedia, the company’s consumer multimedia group.
Times Mirror recently announced it will fold the Baltimore Evening Sun in September. That announcement came as the company reported a sizable drop in second-quarter earning profits.
“We are beginning a series of carefully designed actions intended to reduce costs and redirect the company’s resources to build on its core strengths,” explained Times Mirror president and CEO Mark H. Willes. He defined Times Mirror’s core businesses as newspapers, magazines and electronic information sources.
Willes said the company will be reviewing all its administrative functions and non-core business initiatives and assets “in order to bring costs into proper alignment and to generate appropriate returns on these assets.”
Willes, who joined Times Mirror in June from General Mills, termed the changes as part of a “major profit improvement program.”
However, the company said it will continue development of electronic products such as its online TimesLink service and Newsday Direct.
The plans include the future introduction of Med One, an Internet-based medical online service for physicians, it was reported.
Willes also disclosed that the company is considering expanding its cable television system and is discussing the broadening of its channels with potential investors.
“While the first stage in the redirection of the company involves sharp expense reductions and resource allocations, we cannot save our way to prosperity,” Willes said. “We are confident that these actions will allow us to focus and have the resources to fund new growth opportunities at our strong, vibrant franchises.”
The Times Mirror chief calculated that the company’s moves will allow it to meet its 1995 earning expectations, despite increased newsprint costs and dips in advertising in its newspaper markets.
At the same time, Times Mirror’s board of directors approved a program to repurchase in the open market up to 10% of the company’s common equivalent shares. This would represent approximately 12.8 million shares of the 128 million shares outstanding on June 30, 1995.
Willes indicated the decision reflected the company’s confidence in its long-term prosperity.
“The company has a very strong balance sheet, with its lowest long-term debt level in more than 15 years,” he stated. Times Mirror’s core newspaper properties have a strong free cash flow capacity, he added.
Because of an expected decline in interest income, the company does not anticipate the new program will add to earnings per share in the short term, Willes said.
“But over time,” he went on, “it will be an important factor in providing the types of returns our shareholders are entitled to expect.”
In addition to the Los Angeles Times, Times Mirror publishes Long Island Newsday, the Baltimore Sun, Allentown (Pa.) Morning Call, and the Hartford Courant, Stamford Advocate and Greenwich Time in Connecticut.
Times Mirror reported that income from continuing operations in the second quarter of this year was $26 million or 11? a share, after preferred dividend requirements of $13.8 million. This compares $32.1 million or 25? per share in 1994.
The company pointed out that the prior-year includes income from sold cable operations totalling $13.3 million or 10? a share.
?( We are cpmfodemt that these actions will allow us to focus andhave the resources to fund new growth opportunities at our strong., vibrant franchise.” ) [Caption]
?(Mark H. WIlles, Times Mirror president and CEO) [Photo & Caption]