New Jersey Papers Offer Buyouts, Combine Some Operations

By: Joe Strupp

Advance Publications’ Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J. and The Times of Trenton, N.J., are planning to offer buyout packages to newsroom and business-side employees.

Star-Ledger Publisher George Arwady would not disclose details of the offers, or say how many employees would be eligible, but said the information would be presented to workers on Wednesday and would affect non-union employees.

In addition, the two publications will combine printing operations and several business functions in an effort to cut costs, Arwady said.

“Since the Star-Ledger and the Times perform the same kind of tasks with similar equipment, putting together certain operations makes sense,” Arwady said in a release. “The approach we are taking also enables us to keep our separate identities while continuing to deliver high-quality service to our readers, advertisers and communities.”

Times Publisher Richard Bilotti said the changes would not impact his paper’s service to readers. “Except for improved color printing capacity, the changes should be invisible to readers and advertisers,” he said in a statement. “The Times will continue to publish just as it does now, and the paper will be strengthened by the back-office efficiencies that are contemplated.”

Arwady, publisher since 2004, noted that the job cuts would seek to eliminate duplicate positions under the new combined business and printing operations. “You will have fewer people in accounting, technical support, and some advertising support areas and circulation,” he told E&P.

Neither paper is represented by The Newspaper Guild. Arwady did not indicate how many employees were union-represented and did not disclose the number of employees at each publication. The Times has a circulation of 67,600, while The Star-Ledger boasts 400,092.

Arwady’s release also stated that “the newspapers needed to respond to the economic challenges caused by mergers among advertisers, increased competition for advertising dollars and escalating cost increases.” It also said “both The Star-Ledger and The Times have avoided the employee layoffs that have characterized other newspapers’ response to the same conditions. But in order to survive, both newspapers must become more competitive and operate as efficiently as possible.”

Arwady said the consolidation and buyouts were not part of any chain-wide cutbacks for Advance, which owns 26 daily newspapers, including the Times-Picayune in New Orleans and The Plain Dealer in Cleveland. He also said the cuts were not related to any impact on the Times-Picayune from the New Orleans post-hurricane economic problems.

When asked if the move to combine operations means the Times might eventually close or merge with the Star-Ledger, Arwady offered a firm no. “Not at all,” he said. “This ensures the long-term health of the Times. This puts them in good shape for the long haul. The paper is not closing, it is no going anywhere, we are just saving a buck.”

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