Some Deals Reached in Philly, But Reporters Hold Out as Strike Deadline Nears

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The new owner of Philadelphia?s two largest newspapers said Monday that it has reached an agreement with half of the publications? 12 unions, as the clock ticks toward the contracts? expiration at midnight Tuesday.

But a spokesman for Philadelphia Media Holdings LLC said management is not optimistic that a deal will be struck with the largest union, which represents more than 900 reporters, photographers and other employees at The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News.

A federal mediator is working with the Newspaper Guild of Greater Philadelphia and management to break an impasse over issues including job cuts, a pension freeze, the elimination of seniority status for layoffs and a merger of the editorial departments of both papers. Members authorized a strike last week.

At a rally outside company headquarters on Monday, Guild President Henry Holcomb said the union isn?t resigned to the layoffs. He said management faces a fight over many of the issues which are important to members, including the pension and seniority.

Company spokesman Jay Devine said advertising revenue has fallen significantly over the past few months and management realizes they have to make cost cuts to meet bank debt obligations.

Unlike the days when media chain Knight Ridder Inc. owned the papers, ?there is no more (deep-pocketed corporate) parent,? Devine said. ?The family checkbook is what it is.?

Circulation also continues to slide.

For the six months ended Sept. 30, the Inquirer?s weekday circulation fell 7.6 percent to nearly 331,000, the Audit Bureau of Circulations reported Monday. It is the second-largest percentage drop among the nation?s 20 largest newspapers, after the Los Angeles Times, which fell by 8 percent.

Devine said the company got ?significant savings? from deals with the six unions, which have 200 members. By using tactics such as changing staffing size on some sh

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