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California and the West

Times to Cut 8% of Editorial Jobs

November 17, 2005|From a Times Staff Writer

The Los Angeles Times said Wednesday that it planned to eliminate about 85 newsroom jobs and an undetermined number of positions elsewhere at the newspaper to reduce costs in the face of sluggish circulation and advertising sales.

Some of the newsroom cuts -- which would amount to about 8% of the paper's editorial staff of 1,032 -- already have been made through attrition. The rest will be achieved by Jan. 1 through voluntary employee buyouts and an unspecified number of layoffs, Times Editor Dean Baquet said in a memo to his staff.

Times Publisher Jeffrey M. Johnson said that, over the next three weeks, other Times departments would be reviewing how many positions to cut. The Times, a subsidiary of Chicago-based Tribune Co., has about 3,900 full-time employees overall.

Times spokeswoman Martha Goldstein said the number of other jobs to be eliminated would not be announced until the review was completed.

"These are not easy decisions" but are "absolutely essential to succeed in 2006 and beyond," Johnson said in a separate memo to the company's workforce.

The cutbacks were not unexpected, in part because staff reductions have been announced at several other major U.S. papers in recent weeks, including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the San Jose Mercury News and the Baltimore Sun.

The Chicago Tribune -- also owned by Tribune Co., as is the Baltimore Sun -- said Wednesday that it would eliminate jobs companywide. It put the likely number of positions to be lost at fewer than 100.

Although profitable, newspapers recently have seen their revenue decline as advertisers and readers increasingly have migrated to the Internet and other media outlets. At the same time, newsprint costs have been climbing.

"You have a soft advertising-revenue climate with rising costs, and you have to make tough choices or you're not going to be strong going forward," Johnson said in an interview.

"There is lots of competition out there for readers," he said, and the staff cuts will help The Times invest in strategies to increase circulation and advertising, including "making sure we're connecting with Southern California, betting big online and doing other things to reach new audiences."

John Morton, president of media consulting firm Morton Research Inc., said the job cuts were "a reflection of the fact that advertising has been weak, earnings have been under pressure and newsprint costs are going up."

But he added that the reductions "don't really seem draconian. All of these newspapers have, by industry standards, fairly large news staffs, and they will still have large staffs after these cuts."

On Monday, The Times announced it would discontinue its weekly Outdoors section as a cost-cutting measure, with the last edition appearing Dec. 6.

Baquet said in an interview that The Times remained strongly committed to its coverage of local, national and foreign news, including its coverage of the Iraq war.

"I believe the paper can grow circulation again, and I believe the paper can be as hard-hitting as it ever was," he said.

Last month, Tribune said its third-quarter profit tumbled 80% from a year earlier -- to $24 million from $121.7 million -- mainly because of an adverse tax ruling that forced the company to take a $150-million charge against earnings. Its revenue declined slightly to $1.4 billion from $1.41 billion.

Tribune's holdings include 11 daily newspapers, 26 TV stations -- including KTLA Channel 5 in Los Angeles -- and the Chicago Cubs baseball team.

Tribune's stock fell 33 cents to $32.44 a share Wednesday.

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