'Star Ledger,' Digital Media Cut Staff

The axe is falling at newspapers across the country again, with a major round of layoffs announced at The Star-Ledger in Newark, NJ, and across a number of newspapers owned by Digital First Media. The cuts at Digital Media are fueling speculation of an impending sale.

Another troubled newspaper, The Star Tribune of Minneapolis, is set to trade hands yet again, this time to local billionaire Glen Taylor.
 
The Star-Ledger announced that it will be laying off 167 people as part of a major cost-cutting effort by owner Advance Publications, which plans to save money by consolidating certain operations with its other newspapers in New Jersey. That figure represents over a fifth of the newspaper’s total workforce of 750 employees, according to a report in the Star-Ledger, and will include 40 out of 156 newsroom staff. All the cuts will fall on non-unionized personnel, who number around 500.

Advance execs said The Star-Ledger is forecast to lose $19 million in 2014.
 
The Star-Ledger reports that the unexpected layoffs followed close on the heels of the creation of a new company, NJ Advance Media, which will provide content, as well as advertising and marketing, to Advance newspapers in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, including The Star-Ledger, The Times of Trenton, NJ, The South Jersey Times, and The Express-Times of Easton, PA.
 
Also this week, Digital First Media, which manages a number of newspapers acquired from the MediaNews Group and 21st Century Media (formerly Journal Register Co.) announced that it is closing Project Thunderdome, an initiative launched in 2012 with the goal of reducing costs by providing national news to local publications from a centralized bureau in New York City.
 
Thunderdome staffers produced various types of digital content, including articles and online video, for Web site and mobile distribution by some 75 Digital First newspapers across the U.S., including the San Jose Mercury News and The Denver Post. They also drew on content from a variety of online partners, like Mashable and Global Post.

The closure of Thunderdome, which employed around 45 people, involves an unspecified number of layoffs; Digital First Editor in Chief Jim Brady and Thunderdome boss Robyn Tomlin are both leaving the company. On his Newsonomics Web site, newspaper analyst Ken Doctor wrote that he expects the next step will be auctions of various Digital First newspapers, as backer Alden Global Capital looks for an exit.
 
Finally, The Star Tribune of Minneapolis is poised for yet another ownership transition, as billionaire businessman Glen Taylor -- who owns the Minnesota Timberwolves NBA team, among other properties -- announced that he was offering an unspecified amount for the newspaper. Taylor has signed a letter of intent to buy The Star Tribune giving him 60 days to review the company’s finances and operations, and the deal could close by the end of May, the newspaper reports. Taylor is said to have a net worth of around $1.8 billion.
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