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Bay Area newspaper publisher cutting workers

February 20, 2008|From Times Wire Services

Bay Area News Group, the San Francisco-area newspaper publisher controlled by MediaNews Group Inc., offered buyouts to almost all 1,100 of its employees to slash costs.

The cuts involve newspapers including the Contra Costa Times and the Oakland Tribune, publisher John Armstrong said Tuesday.

The company won't say how many jobs will be cut or how much it hopes to save.

Armstrong, publisher of the company's East Bay newspapers, said employees had until March 3 to file for buyouts and would be notified soon after of the company's decision. He said he would fire employees if not enough take the buyouts.

The buyouts are part of a larger program to reduce costs at the unit of MediaNews, which includes the San Jose Mercury News, Armstrong said. In a memo to employees, he wrote that the company planned other steps to reduce costs, such as limiting TV listings.

Revenue at Bay Area News Group has declined with the real estate market and lower retail advertising, he said. The division also has lost advertisers to the Internet.

"We're taking steps to change our operation that we hope will be as invisible as possible to advertisers and our readers," Armstrong said.

MediaNews owns and manages the Bay Area Newspaper Group, with Gannett Co. and privately held Stephens Media Group as investors.

MediaNews, meanwhile, reported a 34% increase in fiscal second-quarter net income because of one-time gains, including a legal settlement and the sale of interest in newspapers.

The publisher of the Detroit News, the Denver Post and 55 other papers earned $17.4 million for the quarter that ended Dec. 31, up from net income of $13 million for the year-earlier quarter. Revenue fell to $345.2 million from $372.5 million.

The privately held company, which also owns the Los Angeles Daily News and the Long Beach Press-Telegram, voluntarily files financial disclosure documents with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

MediaNews is run by William Dean Singleton, its chief executive and vice chairman. He has been criticized in the past for gutting newspaper staffs and even closing the Fort Worth (Texas) Press.

Singleton also is chairman of the Associated Press, a nonprofit cooperative owned by member news organizations.

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