Times and Tribune feel squeeze, make newsroom cuts

Tribune Co. and the New York Times Co. will implement cutbacks in their newsrooms this year.

Both companies cited the weak economy and declines in print ad volume as reasons for the cuts, which will be accomplished via buyouts, attrition, closing open positions and, if needed, layoffs. The Chicago Tribune and its sister papers will eliminate 400-500 positions — 2% of its workforce. The New York Times is doing away with 100 positions.

“Last year, the Times reduced, across the company, the number of employees by nearly 4%, so one the business side there have been many cost reductions made already,” said Catherine Mathis, SVP of corporate communications for the New York Times. “The newsroom right now is at the highest level it’s ever been, so at a time when many other newspapers were cutting back, we were adding.”

The New York Times Co., currently operating with 1,332 newsroom employees, will complete its cuts by the end of the year. Twelve cuts, announced in December, are clerical and administrative positions. The company has already pared down the newsroom of The Boston Globe and has also made cuts in non-news operations.

Adjusting for the extra week in 2006’s fiscal calendar, revenue at the New York Times Co. fell 8.2% in December 2007, compared with December 2006. Ad revenues for the period fell 12%, and circulation revenues were down 0.6%.

The company is under pressure from shareholders to increase its bottom-line, while withstanding new competition from the Wall Street Journal. Mathis said the Times will focus on developing new products, both in print and online. One example is the T magazine series, which has seen steady ad page growth and launched new editions in 2007.

The company will also take cost-cutting measures. It has set up a research and development team to help anticipate changes in consumer preferences and develop new applications. The fourth prong of the company strategy will be to change its business portfolio. It sold a broadcast group and a radio station last year and has invested in smaller digital entities such as Calorie-Count.com, UCompareHealthCare.com and ConsumerSearch.com.

The Chicago Tribune, which saw revenue drop 5% in January, will eliminate 100 jobs in nearly all sectors of its newsroom by the end of March. The Los Angeles Times, also a member of Tribune Co., will do away with up to 150 positions, including 40 in the newsroom.

The Tribune Co. could not be reached for comment as of press time.

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