On the slim-fast front, The Chicago Tribune announced this week that it is shedding its stand-alone newspaper book review in favor of a smaller "books and media" section--with heavy emphasis on the "media" part at the expense of books. The new combined section in the Saturday edition (a newspaper no-man's land in the best of times) also makes room for comics, movie ads and weather.
The independent book review section met its demise a few months after the Tribune Co.'s new management announced a 50-50 policy whereby none of the company's newspapers would contain less than 50% advertising by volume.
The policy is intended to control spending by reducing consumption of newsprint and distribution costs. It also allows the Tribune to cut editorial content and reporters. This year, the Los Angeles Times, another Tribune flagship paper, closed its weekend magazine and re-launched it under the control of the advertising sales staff.
In September, The New York Times slimmed down by getting rid of its stand-alone Metro section, although it claims this does not entail a reduction in content. The Metro section began publication in 1991, but had dwindled in size in recent years. Metro stories will now be appended to the paper's first section, after international and national news.
There is some irony in the closing of the stand-alone section, as many newspaper publishers are playing up their local news reporting as unique content that can't be replicated by competitors on the Web.
This week, The New York Times also announced that it would be closing the Web site of the International Herald Tribune, redirecting all traffic to that destination to the New York Times Web site. In an internal memo to staff, Times' management warned that closing the Web site will make necessary "hard decisions about jobs at the IHT"--which can only mean layoffs, in addition to some reassignments and relocations.
Some newspapers are also slicing their publication schedules. Arizona's East Valley Tribune, for example, said this week that it will transition to a four-day publication schedule while reducing its staff by 40%--roughly 140 people. The free, formerly daily newspaper also said it will no longer provide journalistic coverage or free distribution of the newspaper in Scottsdale and Tempe, Arizona--two mid-sized cities with a total population of about 400,000.
Then there's the spate of outright closures affecting newspapers large and small. Last week saw the demise of the New York Sun, a conservative daily that closed after seven years of publication. The Sun was unable to raise the new capital it needed to stay afloat--a task surely made more difficult by the unfolding economic crisis.
Late August brought the closure of El Nuevo Dia Orlando, a free Spanish-language newspaper serving the large Hispanic population of the Florida entertainment capital. It targeted Puerto Rican immigrants in particular; the greater Orlando area is home to about 300,000 Puerto Ricans. The closure of El Nuevo Dia put about 50 employees out of work.
February 20th was the last day of publication for the Albuquerque Tribune, ending a nine-decade run in New Mexico's largest city. E.W. Scripps decided to close the newspaper after it was unable to sell it. The closing affected 38 editorial employees. Several other newspapers will continue to serve Albuquerque, a city of about 450,000.
In December 2007, E.W. Scripps also closed the Cincinnati Post and Kentucky Post newspapers after 126 years of publication. The decision was prompted by the expiration of a joint operating agreement with Gannett that would put the cost of publication entirely on Scripps' shoulders.
At their height in 1961, the two afternoon newspapers had a total circulation of 275,000. Scripps is keeping a much-reduced Kentucky news operation going in the form of kypost.com, which shares content with WPCO-TV, a Cincinnati TV station also owned by Scripps.