Where Will It Stop? Tribune Cuts Also Hit Allentown, Virginia

By: Five newspapers owned by Tribune Co., including the company's two flagship papers in Chicago and Los Angeles, said Wednesday they will cut jobs amid declining circulation and revenue.

The cuts come one week after another Tribune paper, The (Baltimore) Sun, and Knight Ridder Inc.'s San Jose Mercury News both announced similar cost-cutting moves.

The Los Angeles Times said Wednesday it is eliminating about 85 newsroom positions, or approximately 8 percent of its editorial staff.

Some of the cuts already have come through attrition and some will come through a voluntary separation program, editor Dean Baquet wrote in an e-mail to staff. The balance will come through layoffs by year's end.

Publisher Jeff Johnson told employees in a separate memo that job cuts in other departments will be announced over the next three weeks, as will initiatives to boost circulation and advertising revenue.

In Chicago, the total number of Tribune jobs cut will "likely" be fewer than 100 and will be distributed across all departments, publisher David Hiller said in a memo to employees.

Many of the jobs being eliminated are open positions but there will be no voluntary buyouts, he said. Decisions on layoffs will be made in the next two weeks.

The Tribune employs about 3,000 people.

The Orlando Sentinel's publisher, Kathy Waltz, told staff in a memo the paper would cut "a limited number of positions," according to copies of the memo posted on several industry Web sites. Waltz did not say how many jobs would be cut or from which departments.

The Florida paper did not return a call for comment on Wednesday.

The Tribune's Daily Press in Newport News, Va., said eight employees, four of them in the newsroom, had their positions eliminated to lower costs, according to a staff memo from publisher Ronnie Matthews. Eighteen other unfilled positions were eliminated and the newspaper's content also would be cut to save money, according to the newspaper.

The Morning Call in Allentown, Pa. was reporting in its Thursday editions that it will offer buyouts to employees in its advertising and news departments to cull a dozen workers from its staff of about 850.

Three other Tribune newspapers in Connecticut -- The Hartford Courant, Greenwich Times and The Advocate of Stamford -- said Wednesday no job cuts had been announced at their companies.

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel, in Fort Lauderdale, did not return a call for comment on whether any cuts were planned there.

Last week, The Sun said it would cut 75 jobs, or 5 percent of its work force, with 12 to 15 expected to come from the newsroom. In September, Newsday, the Tribune Co.'s dominant daily newspaper on Long Island, said it would reduce its coverage of New York City and cut 45 positions from its newsroom staff.

Last month, Chicago-based Tribune, whose holdings include 11 daily newspapers, 26 television stations and the Chicago Cubs, said third-quarter profits tumbled 82 percent because of an adverse tax ruling that forced it to take a huge charge.

The media company's results also showed continuing sluggishness in advertising sales and lower revenue from newspaper circulation, although Tribune executives said recent circulation trends show improvement.

Tribune Co. spokesman Gary Weitman said there was no directive to the dailies about job cuts but said they are being made as individual papers develop their operating plans. Last month, Chairman and CEO Dennis FitzSimons said in his third-quarter letter to shareholders that "all of our newspapers are pursuing further cost reductions to be implemented by year end."

Like many newspapers, the Times has been experiencing circulation declines. For the six-month period ended Sept. 30, the paper's average weekday circulation dropped nearly 4 percent to 843,432 copies. The Chicago Tribune's daily circulation fell nearly 2.5 percent to 586,122 copies, according to figures released earlier this month.

Newsroom cuts do not necessarily mean diminished news coverage, said newspaper analyst John Morton, president of the media consulting firm Morton Research Inc.

"These newspapers generally have by industry standards fairly fat news staffs, so generally the layoffs are not draconian," Morton said.

In September, The New York Times Co. said it would cut about 500 jobs across its company, or 4 percent of its work force; Philadelphia's two major newspapers said they would cut a combined 100 jobs.

The Mercury News cut 16 percent of its newsroom staff earlier this month through attrition and buyouts.


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