By paulgillin | March 4, 2008 - 9:01 am - Posted in Advertising, BusinessModel, Classifieds, Layoffs, NewMedia, Newspapers

There are so many cutbacks to report that we have to spread the news across two posts.

Bay Area Blues

The big news comes out of the Bay area, where some 1,300 employees at San Francisco-area newspapers were offered buyouts. The San Jose Mercury News offered packages aimed at shedding nearly 200 non-union employees and also said it would cut an unspecified number of union jobs. Bay Area News Group-East Bay, which includes the Tribune, the Times and 14 other newspapers, offered all 1,100 of its employees the chance to apply for buyouts, raising the question of what it would do if everyone took the offer. On the other hand, that might be a preferable option to staying in business. Employees have to decide by the end of this week.

MetroActive describes the somber mood in the Merc newsroom, which has lost half its staff since 2001. The story quotes the president of the San Jose Newspaper Guild says, “A whole lot [of people] have been looking for something else because they are done. This is not a company that people want to work for.” But where else are you going to go?

The AP quotes a veteran Merc business reporter saying, “We’ve been through this a number of times. You just wonder when it’s all going to end. The problem is nobody knows where the bottom of this is.” Hint: it’s still a long way down. The Merc covers its own gloomy news here.

In nearby Tracy, Calif., the Tracy Press has scaled its frequency back from five times weekly to twice weekly over the last six months and just laid off an unspecified number of staffers. The paper has a free circulation of 9,700. One of the laid-off employees commented, “I’m a victim of three things: the Internet, the real estate mess and the recession.” Management at Tracy‘s two other daily newspapers — the San Joaquin Herald and Stockton Record — have also recently announced cost-cutting measures, though this story didn’t specify what they were.

 

Venture Trims and Tells the Tale

In the spirit of true openness The Ventura County Star devotes 750 words to a layoff amounting to 2% of its staff, including perspective on its parent company’s finances and the overall health of the newspaper industry. No editors were affected in this round, however, the newspaper’s publisher ominously noted, “I don’t think we’ve seen the bottom yet…Things could get worse before they get better.”

Meanwhile, on the East Coast…

A blogger published a memo sent by Boston Globe publisher Steve Ainsley confirming layoff plans. “We are expecting a total reduction of 80 positions, with approximately 60 from the Globe and roughly 20 from the [Telegram & Gazette],” the memo said. “This reduction in staff is a difficult but necessary step toward our ongoing goals of reducing costs and finding efficiencies that allow for the long-term health of our business.” As the Silicon Valley of the east, Boston will see the ugly scenario now being played out in the Bay Area spread next to its shores. However, the whole thing will play out much more slowly there.

Can it get any worse in Philadelphia? In January, the publisher of the Inquirer spoke of “dire consequences” if costs aren’t cut at least 10%. Now Philadelphia Newspapers has laid off 68 Guild employees in the advertising, circulation, customer service, finance, marketing, and systems departments. That’s about 10% of Guild membership. It sounds like management-union relations aren’t so rosy there. Management basically tells the Guild it’s cutting expenses and that’s that. Meanwhile, Guild reps complain that they can’t get management to listen to their revenue-generating ideas. The concept of a union coming up with ideas to grow revenue sounds just a little too bizarre for this editor. What are they going to do: charge advertisers dues?

Not far away, in Allentown, the Morning Call announced an unspecified number of buyouts. No newsroom jobs will be affected, said editor Ardith Hilliard. A newsroom reorganization last month already resulted in eight lost positions, mostly through attrition.

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