Sun-Times Media Group to Close 12 Suburban Papers

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Sun-Times Media Group Inc. plans to close 12 weekly newspapers in suburban Chicago and has asked its union employees to take a cut in compensation as part of cost-cutting measures brought on by declining advertising revenue.

The company, which operates the Chicago-Sun Times, also wants to lay off up to 15 employees in suburban newsrooms, a union official told Crain’s Chicago Business for a story on its Web site Thursday.

“I’m very sad, on so many levels,” Lynne Stiefel, who chairs the Chicago guild unit that represents newsrooms for the company’s Pioneer Press group, told the paper. “It’s people losing their jobs, but you are also talking about residents losing access to information about their communities.”

The company, which bought Pioneer Press in 1989, reported a $168 million loss in the third quarter. The closings and the 7 percent compensation cut will help the company reach its goal of cutting expenses by as much as $50 million, according to a memo sent to union members Wednesday by Misha Davenport and Bob Mazzoni, co-chairs of the Sun Times unit of the Chicago Newspaper Guild.

“Compensation can take the form of wages, health care and pension contributions, vacations, holidays or any combination thereof that will help the company meet its goals of trimming $50 million from its 2009 budget,” the memo says.

Sun-Times Media spokeswoman Tammy Chase said the company first talked about its plan to reduce costs in a November letter to shareholders.

The company laid off dozens of newsroom staff and closed papers last year to cut about $50 million. Pioneer Press currently publishes 51 papers in Chicago’s suburbs, according to a list on the company’s Web site.

The 12 publications slated for closure are: Algonquin Countryside, Arlington Heights Post, Cary-Grove Countryside, Des Plaines Times, Elk Grove Times, Hoffman Estates Review, Mount Prospect Times, Niles Herald Spectator, Palatine Countryside, Proviso Herald, Rolling Meadows Review and Wheeling Countryside.

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