‘Sun’ Eclipsed: Joins Trib Job Cut Brigade

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By: The Associated Press and E&P Staff

The (Baltimore) Sun will cut about 100 jobs, including 55 to 60 in the newsroom, through buyouts, layoffs and the closing of open positions. The latest in a series of cuts to the venerable newspaper were announced Wednesday in a memo from publisher Tim Ryan to the newspaper staff.

“These actions are necessary for us to remain competitive and win in the future, and will enable us to create new targeted print and interactive media for the marketplace that satisfy both consumers and advertisers,” Ryan wrote.

The Sun is owned by Chicago-based Tribune Co., the parent company of the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times.

The Hartford Courant, another Tribune Co. paper, said separately Wednesday it plans to cut nearly 60 newsroom positions and 25 percent of its news pages as Connecticut’s largest newspaper struggles with an industrywide decline in advertising.

Earlier this month, Tribune CEO Sam Zell announced the company would trim pages and editorial content from all eight of its daily newspapers, which have been losing circulation and advertising revenue as readers migrate to the Internet.

Last year, 41 Sun employees accepted buyouts and three advertising designers were laid off. The year before, The Sun announced the closing of its last two foreign bureaus.

Staff positions represented by the Baltimore-Washington Newspaper Guild have shrunk by at least 34 percent through buyouts, layoffs and departures since 2003, the union said.

Ryan and Sun editor Tim Franklin declined to comment through a spokesman.

Sun staffers said they received few satisfactory answers at a staff meeting Wednesday afternoon about how the cuts will improve the newspaper.

“This is a crisis for good journalism in Baltimore,” said Lynn Anderson, a Sun reporter and a unit co-chair for the Guild, which represents 480 of The Sun’s 1,400 employees.

Another Guild co-chair, Tanika White, said managers haven’t figured out how to streamline the newspaper’s print and Web operations, which are housed in separate buildings.

Buyouts will be offered Friday to all employees, who have two weeks to accept, Ryan wrote. If not enough employees accept buyouts, layoffs will be announced July 18 and the reductions will take effect in early August.

“It is extremely difficult for all of us to lose colleagues and friends,” Ryan wrote.

A radical redesign of The Sun is expected to accompany reductions. The Orlando Sentinel, another Tribune paper, this week debuted a new-look front page that includes just two or three articles, big photographs, graphics and advertising.

Separately, The Courant disclosed plans to reduce newsroom staff from 232 to about 175, with most cuts to be implemented by July 31. Newsroom employees will be offered voluntary buyouts, but the paper said layoffs are also possible.

The number of pages devoted to news in The Courant will fall to 206 a week, from 273. In late September, the newspaper expects to roll out sweeping design changes that could see some sections combined.

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Excerpt from memo today from Sun Publisher Tim Ryan.

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The two key factors that will sustain our company for the future are customer satisfaction and financial stability. Achieving both goals is challenging in the very best of market conditions. In the face of today?s tough economy, adapting to consumer trends while maintaining our fiscal strength is proving to be even more difficult ? yet even more critical.

Our long-term strategy of going on offense and creating growth opportunities will continue to get us closer to our goals. Already this year, we generated incremental Sun circulation gains, launched a new, free daily publication, b, which is the first of its kind in the market and, through our “explore” websites, delivered highly-localized news and information for the region?s consumers.

In spite of these early, significant wins, we struggled to achieve our performance goals. So, while we will stay on the offense, we are altering our game plan. In order to align ourselves more closely with our customers, we are retooling our business model, which will include enhancements to our newspaper. In August, 2008, The Sun redesign will debut, giving readers more of what they want ? a more concise newspaper with more local news, personally relevant and useful content, consumer information, watchdog coverage, more graphics and better navigation.

By adjusting our business model and redesigning our core publication, we expect to stimulate readership growth and improve our financial performance. Regrettably, our new course also requires us to reduce our workforce by about 100 positions across BSMG. These actions are necessary for us to remain competitive and win in the future, and will enable us to create new targeted print and interactive media for the marketplace that satisfy both consumers and advertisers….

Moving Forward

It is extremely difficult for all of us to lose colleagues and friends. However, while we cannot control the current economy, we can control what action we take to create a stronger future. We are, by far, Baltimore?s media leader, and through ongoing innovation to introduce new and exciting media for our marketplace, we will maintain our competitive position.

The leadership team and I will continue to keep you informed throughout this transition. Thank you for your patience, continuing contributions and commitment to our company.

–Tim

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