UPDATE: Ron Martz Among 43 in 'AJC' Newsroom Who Take A Buyout

By: Forty-three newsroom employees at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution have opted to take buyouts offered by the paper as part of a restructuring, a spokeswoman said Tuesday.

Among them is Ron Martz, one of the paper's best known reporters who had gained many plaudits for his coverage of the Iraq war as embed and in many articles and a book, titled "Heavy Metal," since. In recent weeks he has covered the aftermath of the Walter Reed Medical Center scandal.

Another on the buyout list: Mike Toner, who earned a Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Journalism in 1993 for a series on the decline in effectiveness of certain antibiotics and pesticides.

The changes come as the Atlanta paper, like other newspapers, adjusts to major shifts in news consumption and advertising spending on the Internet.

There were up to 80 staffers among the 475 full-time newsroom employees at Georgia's largest newspaper who were offered the buyouts in February.

Most of those who have accepted the buyout will leave the newspaper on June 30, but some may be asked to stay longer to help provide continuity for the paper, spokeswoman Mary Dugenske said.

The voluntary buyouts were presented to employees who are at least 55 years old and have more than 10 years at the paper.

There will be no involuntary layoffs. Some staffers who remain may be asked to take on new roles at the paper, Dugenske said.

The newspaper has said it plans to revamp its operations, including cutting its circulation area and focusing more on digital news.

Employees who opted to take the buyout will receive two weeks of pay for each year worked at the paper, up to 52 weeks.

Those who didn't accept the buyout will still have jobs at the paper, the paper has said.

The newspaper has said previously that effective at the beginning of this month, it would no longer include Alabama, South Carolina, Florida and some parts of Georgia in its circulation territory.

The changes will eliminate 44 circulation positions, with displaced workers offered severance packages. The paper also has said it will end its relationship with 128 independent contractors who delivered the paper.

The newspaper's parent company, Atlanta-based Cox Enterprises Inc., also will spend $30 million on upgrading its presses in suburban Gwinnett County, with plans to close the paper's downtown Atlanta production facility in two years. Ninety-eight production jobs will be shifted to the Gwinnett County facility or eliminated.

The newspaper has said it will reorganize its newsroom to put print and digital news on equal footing.

In the six-month period ended Sept. 30, the paper reported average daily circulation of 354,475 and average Sunday circulation of 523,965.


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