Wednesday, March 25, 2009

More bad newspaper news

-- The Houston Chronicle canned 12% of its staff yesterday (and today), including Clay Robison in the Austin bureau and Richard Stewart, whose East Texas columns I've read for thirty years, going back to when he wrote them in the Beaumont Enterprise-Journal. Hair Balls and Banjo Jones have more.

It looks like Steve Swartz is really determined to earn a bonus in his first year.

-- There is no longer a newspaper in Ann Arbor and three other small Michigan cities.

-- Gannett is furloughing employees and cutting pay rather than go through another round of layoffs -- for the time being:

The pall looming over U.S. newspapers grew even darker Monday as Gannett Co. informed most of its employees that they will have to take another week of unpaid leave this spring, while a Michigan daily unveiled plans to close its print edition after 174 years.

And The Plain Dealer, Ohio's largest newspaper, also ordered pay cuts and 10-day furloughs for nonunion employees Monday to cut costs as advertising revenue drops.

The moves were just the latest sign of the distress afflicting newspapers across the country as they try to cope with a dramatic shift in advertising that is forcing publishers to figure out how to survive with substantially less revenue.

Signaling it doesn't see an upturn anytime soon, Gannett wants virtually all of its U.S. employees to stay at home and forgo at least one week's pay before July. About 6,600 workers outside the United States won't be affected by the furloughs.

Executives and many workers making more than $90,000 annually will sacrifice two weeks pay in hopes that Gannett _ the owner of USA Today and more than 80 daily newspapers _ will be able to avoid more layoffs after jettisoning 4,000 jobs last year.

This will mark Gannett's second round of furloughs this year. The company, which employs about 41,500 people, saved about $20 million by imposing one-week furloughs during the first three months of this year.

No end in sight.

Update: The NYT and the WaPo as well ...

Two of the most respected U.S. newspaper publishers, The Washington Post Co and The New York Times Co, are embarking on new cost cuts in the face of dramatic declines in advertising revenue.

The Times said it laid off 100 workers and is cutting non-union salaries. It is also asking unionized employees to accept similar concessions to avoid layoffs in the newsroom.

The Post is offering a new round of buyouts to newsroom, production and circulation employees, and said it could not rule out laying off staff.

"This was a very difficult decision to make," said a memo signed by Times Chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr. and Chief Executive Janet Robinson. "The environment we are in is the toughest we have seen in our years in business."

The moves come as a host of other U.S. newspaper publishers have reduced staff, declared bankruptcy or shuttered once-vaunted newspapers, as readers seek news online and elsewhere and as the recession crimps advertising spending.

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