‘S.F. Chronicle’ To Cut Staff 8.5%

By: Lucia Moses

The San Francisco Chronicle will cut its workforce by about 220 full-timers, or 8.5% of staff, part of its response to a 20% falloff in ad revenue this year, Publisher John Oppedahl wrote in a memo sent to staff Tuesday.

The Chronicle said the reductions will be achieved through a combination of buyouts and layoffs of union and management staff. The layoffs will only impact those hired after July 27, 2000, when the Hearst Corp. bought the paper and hired a number of people from the San Francisco Examiner, which Hearst had sold to the city’s Fang publishing family. The Chronicle also will trim expenses by ending its bonus program for 2002, Oppedahl wrote in the memo.

“The need to reduce our workforce was one we hoped to avoid,” he wrote. “However, the long-term health of our company requires us to go beyond the cost saving efforts we have taken so far this year.”

The cuts won’t impair the paper’s ability to serve its readers and advertisers, he added.

Just as they benefited from the economic boom of the 1990’s, newspapers in the Bay Area have been hit hard when the bubble burst, with dropoffs in dot-com, high-tech, and help-wanted advertising particularly severe.

The Chronicle‘s chief competitor, the Knight Ridder-owned San Jose Mercury News, total daily circulation 268,621, has also downsized staff this year, in addition to folding its much-ballyhooed San Francisco edition, and killing its Sunday magazine.

The Chronicle, total daily circulation 512,042, has also reduced other costs, including marketing, newshole, newsprint, and overtime, Oppedahl wrote. Last week, the paper announced that starting next year, its Sunday magazine will go biweekly to save money. For now, it will continue to publish its afternoon edition, which it started after the Fangs relaunched the p.m. Examiner as a morning paper last year.

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