Rumors of more layoffs, possible bankruptcy haunt Seattle Times

by Sandeep Kaushik, PubliCola

Last November, when the Seattle Times announced its third round of layoffs in a year, Times executives strongly hinted that there would be more to come. “As the 2009 budgeting process continues, there will be additional expense reductions, which may include additional layoffs,” Times Publisher Frank Blethen and President Carolyn Kelly wrote in a memo to Times staff at the time. Word out of the Times then was that a new round of cutbacks could come as early as February. Rumors are swirling that the next round of layoffs could be coming soon.

Since the last round of cuts, the economy has only gotten worse. And the Times’ two-track effort to raise cash by selling off its Maine newspapers has stalled. In December, 500 non-union Times managers were instructed to take a week off without pay by Feb. 28. Last week, some sources in the local media world were telling me they were hearing a new round of cuts was coming in the next couple of weeks.

Elizabeth Brown, administrative officer of the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Guild, which represents newsroom employees at the Times and P-I, says that the union has heard the same thing and is bracing for a new round of layoffs at the Times. While the union has received no official word from the Times, Brown says last Wednesday a Guild member was told by a senior person at the paper that another round of layoffs is probable in the very near future. Others in the Times newsroom told me they have not heard anything recently about more layoffs, but would not be surprised given how bad things are at the paper these days.

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