Fall Massacre: Gannett Cuts Thousands of Jobs

Detroit Free PressNewspapers are seeing red in newsrooms nationwide. On Tuesday, Gannett said it would be laying off 3,000 employees, or roughly 10% of its total work force of about 32,000. Not only are big companies like McClatchy and Tribune cutting, but their smaller competitors are also swinging the axe with abandon.

Although Gannett declined to give specific figures, Robert Dickey, the president of Gannett's beleaguered newspaper division, explained that "the fiscal crisis is deepening and the economy is getting worse. Gannett's revenues continue to be severely impacted by this downturn, and our local operations are suffering."

The current Gannett cuts follow the elimination of 1,000 jobs in August through layoffs and buyouts; between the two rounds of cuts, the company will have shed about 12% of its workforce in under three months. The two most recent rounds came on top of a rolling series of cuts around the company earlier this year.

While a total number is unavailable, hundreds of jobs were affected, including 50 at USA Today, 55 layoffs at four newspapers in New Jersey, 150 buyouts at the Detroit Free Press and Detroit News (about 7.5% of the total 2,000) and an unspecified number of graphic-design positions company-wide. In July, The Honolulu Advertiser said it would lay off 54 employees or 8% of its workforce, and 50 or more positions were cut at the Arizona Republic.

Gannett Broadcasting also cut an unspecified number of positions.

Nor is Gannett alone in implementing multiple layoffs in 2008.

In September, McClatchy said it would be shedding 10% of its work force, or about 1,150 full-time employees, leaving it with approximately 10,350. This announcement followed the announcement in mid-June that it was cutting about 1,400 jobs, and an earlier restructuring plan that shed 2,000 jobs from 2006-2008, achieved largely through voluntary buyouts and attrition. The company will have shed over 30% of its workforce in three years, when the third round of cuts is complete.

At the Tribune Co., Sam Zell's new management team has also made several sweeping rounds of cuts. The Los Angeles Times was hit especially hard on Oct. 27--when it announced it was cutting 75 positions, following an earlier round this summer that cut 250 jobs, including 150 positions in the newsroom. This summer, the Chicago Tribune cut 80 newsroom positions--or about 14% of the total 578--and an unspecified number of jobs in other divisions, like ad sales and production.

The Baltimore Sun cut 100 positions across its various divisions. Several of Tribune's smaller papers were hit especially hard: The Hartford Courant lost 57 and The Orlando Sentinel cut 50 from its newsroom, with an unspecified number elsewhere--large numbers, given the papers' relatively small size.

Advance Publications cut about 40% of the newsroom staff at the Star-Ledger, based in Newark, New Jersey--or a little under 150 positions, as well as jobs in production and distribution--after a highly public struggle with the unionized workers at the paper. At one point, publisher George Arwady said he would be forced to close or sell the newspaper if the unions didn't make some concessions on job cuts.

Amid a legal dispute with minority owner Cox Enterprises, the Daytona Beach News-Journal eliminated 99 positions in June. Also in June, The Palm Beach Post--owned by Cox Newspapers--said it was cutting 300 positions, or about 22% of the total 1,350, including 130 from its newsroom.

In May, Media General said it would cut 810 positions across its properties in the Southeast, with the vast majority falling on its publishing business; just 65 of the positions were in broadcasting or corporate. As part of the reductions, The Tampa Tribune (along with its sister broadcast station WFLA-Channel 8) is losing about 110 positions, or about 8% of the total 1,326, including at least 50 in the newsroom.

Also in May, The Washington Post cut 100 newsroom positions--or about 12% of the total 800--through a combination of voluntary buyouts and attrition, meaning that no layoffs were required. An unspecified number of employees in other divisions also accepted the buyout offer. This followed two earlier rounds of buyouts in 2003 and 2006.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, also owned by Cox Newspapers, cut 189 jobs--or roughly 8% of the total workforce--through voluntary buyouts, attrition and layoffs. The cuts, to be completed by October, came as the paper eliminated its "geographically targeted news sections" devoted to various parts of the Atlanta metro area.

This summer, The Wall Street Journal, recently acquired by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., cut 50 jobs as part of a consolidation of certain functions. In effect, this meant the elimination of its global news, global copy, global pagination, Monitor, and the stand-alone WSJ.com editing desks.

The Boston Herald cut 130-160 employees, focusing on the production staff, according to Herald President and Publisher Patrick J. Purcell, who announced the decision in a meeting with union leaders in late June. Purcell said printing will be outsourced to presses in nearby Chicopee and Norwood, Mass.; the Chicopee facility is owned by Dow Jones, the Norwood facility by Boston Offset.

In February The New York Times said it would cut 100 newsroom positions by the end of the year, preferably through buyouts and attrition--but also with layoffs, if necessary. Overall, the NYTCO has seen its workforce shrink by about 3.8% since last year, according to executives.

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