UPDATE: McClatchy Cutbacks Deeper at Some Papers

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By: Joe Strupp

McClatchy’s plan to cut 10% of its workforce, or some 1,400 jobs, is not being implemented with equal damage everywhere, according to local newspapers. While The Miami Herald is being hit with a 17% staff cut, others, such as The Sun News in Myrtle Beach, S.C., are seeing less pain, with a 3.6% cutback.

The highly praised McClatchy Washington, D.C., bureau, meanwhile, is not losing any jobs during this round, according to Howard Weaver, McClatchy’s vice president/news. “The bureau is smaller than it used to be, and it covers things differently,” Weaver told E&P. “I think the editors realize it is a valuable contributor to them.”

At local papers, meanwhile, the companywide cutback announced Monday is being felt with varying levels of pain, an approach Weaver contends is the fairest way to handle the economic problems. “There is a huge swing,” he said about the implementation. “We have had some departments that haven?t had to lay anyone off, and others that are considerable.”

Ann Caulkins, publisher and president of the Charlotte (N.C.) Observer, which announced it would reduced its workforce by 123 positions, or about 11.1%, said that is the fairest approach: “It depends on the local properties and where they are financially,” she said. “You have to ask them to make adjustments accordingly.”

Most newspaper editors and publishers declined to comment, instead referring to memos or Monday stories about the cutbacks.

In Miami, Herald Publisher David Landsberg broke the news to employees in a memo that stated: “This is a painful but necessary step. We?re operating in a time of great change and challenge for our own operations, for The McClatchy Company and for the newspaper industry overall. Increased competition and a pronounced economic downturn have combined to reduce revenues dramatically, and these cuts are part of the way we must respond.”

Miami’s cuts will mean the loss of 250 full-time positions, or about 17% of the Herald’s total workforce. That includes the layoff of approximately 190 full-time and part-time workers and the elimination of other open positions.

“The coming weeks and months will no doubt be a difficult and disorienting time for all of us, those who remain on the job, as well as those who will be leaving,” Landsberg added. “I assure you that the public service mission that has always driven us will remain unchanged, as we adapt to today?s far more competitive media landscape.”

At The Sacramento Bee, a Web story revealed 8.1% of its workforce would go, translating to 86 jobs, 46 through layoffs. In the story, Bee Publisher and President Cheryl Dell said, “this is a way of helping ensure our future is better. … This really is what reinvention looks like.”

The Fresno Bee, in a memo to employees, announced the elimination of 44 positions, or about 7% of all workers. The memo, from Publisher Ray Steele Jr., also said the Fresno paper would discontinue publishing the Clovis Independent, convert the Sierra Star in Oakhurst to once-a-week publication and reduce news and advertising staffing in the South Valley Bureau.

“Among other cost-savings measures, we will put up for sale the Delta warehouse,” Steele’s memo added. “We are examining all of our expenses and will be discussing some reductions and changes with you and our customers.

A Sun News story quoted publisher Pamela J. Browning saying, “While it’s painful to make a reduction in staff, we proceed with 96% of our workforce and a commitment to being the largest daily newsgathering operation in the coastal Carolinas.”

The Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader reported plans for its own smaller cutbacks, announcing that 17 positions, or 4% of its workforce, would be eliminated. “The reductions were accomplished by elimination of open positions and layoffs of full-, part-time and temporary employees,” the paper said in a story. “Those leaving will be entitled to severance pay, continuation of health benefits, and outplacement assistance.”

The News Tribune in Tacoma, Wash., will reduce its staff by 13%, or 84 positions, according to a memo to employees. At The News-Democrat in Belleville, Ill., 12 positions are being cut, affecting less than 5 % of its work force.

The Kansas City (Mo.) Star revealed it would stick to the companywide 10% cutback, which results in 120 jobs eliminated, the paper reported Monday. “As we restructure for the future, we continue to look for ways to run more efficiently throughout our organization,” Star Editor and Publisher Mark Zieman wrote in a memo. “As part of this examination, we have decided to trim back circulation deliveries to our most far-flung locations, eliminating a net of about 5,000 daily copies in those remote areas.”

The Fort Worth (Texas) Star-Telegram also announced a 10% reduction, which translates to 130 staff cuts through layoffs and buyouts. In addition, Publisher Gary Wortel said the paper would be combining some sections and increase subscription rates by $1.50 per month to $17.50, according to a story on its Web site.

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