‘Portland Press Herald,’ ‘Maine Sunday Telegram’ Cut 36 Jobs, Close News Bureaus

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The Portland Press Herald and Maine Sunday Telegram are eliminating 36 jobs and closing their four news bureaus in response to a continuing decline in advertising revenues, their publisher said Thursday.

The cuts come more than three months after the Seattle Times Co. said it was seeking to sell the Portland newspapers, along with the Kennebec Journal in Augusta and the Morning Sentinel in Waterville. The Portland newspapers have had two earlier rounds of job cuts this year aimed at offsetting rising costs and declining revenues.

In the latest cuts, 25 employees accepted voluntary severance packages and six were laid off, Publisher Charles Cochrane said in a story posted Thursday on the newspaper’s web site. Another five vacant positions will not be filed.

A dozen of the targeted jobs are in the newsroom, including seven reporters, two editors and one copy editor.

The closings of the bureaus in Augusta, Biddeford, Bath and Washington, D.C., will take effect Wednesday.

News coverage provided by the bureaus will be reassigned to reporters working out of the Portland newsroom, said Jeannine Guttman, editor and vice president. She said the Portland newspapers will rely more heavily on their sister publication in Augusta for legislative coverage.

“In this severe economic downturn, we regrettably have had to make this tough financial decision,” Guttman said. “In terms of news coverage, we feel we can adequately cover our core communities from our central offices in Portland.”

Newspapers nationwide have been cutting staff and trimming costs in response to a slowing economy and the loss of readers and advertising dollars to the Internet.

The Blethen Maine Newspapers have about 500 employees and combined circulation of roughly 101,000 daily and 136,900 Sunday.

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