Local newspaper slashes jobs

June 17, 2008 8:09:57 PM PDT
Your morning paper will look and feel different pretty soon.

North Carolina's two largest newspapers, both owned by McClatchy, announced nearly 200 job cuts combined. The Charlotte Observer said it will cut about 11 percent of its staff, or 123 positions, including 22 newsroom jobs. The News & Observer of Raleigh said it would slash about 7 percent of its positions, or 70 jobs, including 16 newsroom employees.

"This is a painful but necessary step," News & Observer publisher Orage Quarles III said in e-mail to employees, the paper reported. "We're operating in a time of great change and challenge for our operations, for the McClatchy Company and for the newspaper industry overall."

An article in Tuesday's edition explaining the changes was printed in the Business section --a section that will ultimately merge with the City and State section.

The Sports, Political and Research Departments will combine with those in Charlotte. Daily editions will also be reduced.

The cuts at McClatchy come amid a broad retrenchment in the U.S. newspaper industry as the economic downturn combined with competition for classified advertising from online rivals like Craigslist has resulted in a steep slump in advertising revenues.

Many other newspaper publishers have also announced job cuts and layoffs in recent months, but McClatchy's companywide cost-cutting drive marked an unusually broad and deep effort to contain costs.

McClatchy spokeswoman Elaine Lintecum said the cuts would be spread throughout the company and would come through a combination of voluntary departures, layoffs and attrition. McClatchy has not historically used widespread layoffs to control staff size, relying instead on attrition, outsourcing and limited job cuts.

McClatchy, which is still working to reduce debt from its $4 billion purchase of Knight Ridder in 2006, said it has already reduced head count by 13 percent from the end of 2006 through April of this year.

McClatchy said the decisions about where the size and form of the job cuts will differ by location in the company. McClatchy has seen the worst declines in advertising in its papers in Florida and California, where the slump in the housing market has been most severe.

The company's newspapers in Florida posted advertising declines of 22.2 percent in the year to date through May, and 22.6 percent in California, the company said in its monthly statistical report.

McClatchy said the staff cuts would save $70 million a year, part of a program to reduce overall expenses by $95 million to $100 million. It didn't specify where the other cuts would come from.

The charges are set to take effect June 27.


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