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Tue, Apr 24, 2007 - Page 10 News List

Tribune newspapers expected to divulge plans to shed staff


The Tribune Co was expected to announce staffing reductions as early as yesterday at its flagship Chicago Tribune as well as its largest-circulation newspaper, the Los Angeles Times, as revenue in the newspaper industry declines.

While no official announcement had been made about the cuts, reports in both newspapers late last week, citing informants they did not identify, said they were imminent and would be carried out mostly through voluntary buyout packages.

The editor of the Los Angeles Times, James O'Shea, confirmed on Sunday that an announcement of cutbacks at his newspaper was to come yesterday.

"The whole industry is going through this," said O'Shea, reached by telephone on Sunday in Washington where he had attended the annual White House Correspondents' Dinner on Saturday night.

"There are staff reductions everywhere you look. Unfortunately, we aren't exempt from the laws of economic nature," he said.

Many newspaper companies, including Tribune, have reduced their staffs in recent years in an effort to cut costs in response to declining revenue. A shift toward online advertising and away from print media has hurt ad sales at newspapers.

The Chicago Tribune reported on Friday that its staff was anticipating an announcement that buyout packages would be offered, with the goal of reducing the staff by about 100.

O'Shea said he could not provide details of anticipated reductions at the Los Angeles Times, but the newspaper had reported that the reduction was expected to involve 150 staff members, including 70 from the newsroom. That would amount to 7.6 percent of the news staff, according to a report in the paper on Saturday.

A spokesman for the Tribune Co, Gary Weitman, declined to comment on any planned staff reductions.

While revenue is down at most newspapers, the Tribune Co, whose papers also include Newsday and the Baltimore Sun, reported quarterly results last Thursday that lagged behind its peers, with a net loss of US$15.6 million in the quarter and a 12 percent reduction in operating cash flow.

The latest round of cutbacks followed announcement early this month of a complex US$8.2 billion deal in which Tribune is to be taken private at a price of US$34 a share. That agreement would place the Chicago real estate magnate Samuel Zell at the helm of the company. It is subject to regulatory and shareholder approval and is not expected to be made final until the end of the year. The vast debt load in that arrangement, about US$13 billion, makes budget cutting even more critical.

Last July, chairman Dennis FitzSimons said the firm planned to save US$200 million in expenses over the next 24 months.

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