UPDATE: The Sun Will Set on 50 Jobs in Baltimore

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By: E&P Staff and The Associated Press

Following on the heels of Tribune Co. stablemates the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune, Baltimore’s The Sun announced internally today a plan to cut 50 positions by buyouts or layoffs.

The L.A. paper faces 150 positions axed and the Tribune about 100.

The Sun is offering buyouts to about 15 in its newsroom, a Sun executive said Tuesday.

Tim Thomas, vice president of marketing for The Sun, said the cuts were not related to the recent sale of the newspaper’s corporate parent, Chicago-based Tribune Co.

“No, if you look at the most recent first quarter results for many newspaper chains, McClatchy and Media General, they’re all off 5 or 6 percent,” Thomas said.

“This is part of a larger program of reducing expenses to be more in line with revenue,” he said.

The buyout will offer employees one week of pay for every six months of employment, with a minimum of four weeks and maximum of 52 weeks, according to a memo from Publisher Tim Ryan.

Tribune Co., which also owns the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, and eight other daily newspapers, accepted an $8.2 billion buyout offer earlier this month from real estate tycoon Sam Zell. The two newspapers disclosed plans Monday to cut their staffs by as many as a combined 250 jobs, the latest cutbacks in a newspaper industry reeling from a falloff in advertising and circulation.

In a memo to Sun newsroom employees, Editor Tim Franklin and Managing Editor Bob Blau acknowledged the tough times the newspaper industry is facing.

“Unfortunately, however, this has been a very difficult first quarter for the industry in general, and here at The Sun. We’re going to attempt to achieve this downsizing through voluntary buyouts – not layoffs – and in a way that allows us to continue producing the kind of exceptional journalism that has been honored with a cascade of national awards in recent weeks,” the e-mail read.

U.S. newspaper circulation has been declining since the late 1980s, a drop that has accelerated in recent years as the Internet and other media take away readers and advertisers. Tribune Co. said Monday that it will redeploy its resources to areas that can best generate growth.

“We hope to avoid involuntary layoffs by offering this voluntary program,” Publisher Tim Ryan wrote today in a memo to The Sun staff. “In order to do so, we need to achieve staff reductions of approximately 50 people at The Sun.”

Ryan’s memo was first posted at the Romenesko site. An excerpt follows.
*

At the recent town hall meeting and the employee meetings held earlier this month, I had the opportunity to talk about our 2007 objectives and the challenges that we continue to face in meeting these objectives. This has been a very difficult first quarter for the newspaper industry in general and for The Sun in particular. Total revenue declined 6% from the same period last year and this same trend is continuing for April.

To adjust to these new realities, we are taking a number of actions to reduce expenses including offering a voluntary separation program. In the case of union-represented employees, program discussions are currently underway with union leadership. Eligible employees in all departments will be notified this week.

Terms of the program are similar to past offers:

— One week of separation pay for every completed six months of service to be paid through salary continuation (a minimum of four weeks and maximum of 52 weeks).

— Benefits will continue for the length of separation pay (minimum of three months health care coverage).

Details will be outlined in the information packets provided to eligible employees. Anyone who wants to participate in this voluntary program must apply to Human Resources no later than Tuesday, May 29, 2007. You will be notified by May 31 if your application is approved. Employees’ last day of work generally will be no later than Friday, June 1….

As we take measures to remain financially strong, we will commit our resources to the growth strategies needed to continue serving our readers and advertisers well into the future…

We have thrived during many periods of change within the past 170 years, and I know that working together as a team will allow us to add many more chapters to The Sun’s incredible history. Thank you for your understanding and support as we move forward.

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