Seattle Times plans job cuts, size reduction

by Joe Strupp, Editor and Publsher

Claiming it will save some $21 million, The Seattle Times today announced plans to layoff 17 non-newsroom staffers and cut another 69 jobs through attrition, citing a need for the savings in the face of declining advertising revenue.

In today's paper, the daily also reported the Times would "stop publishing a Sunday tabloid news section for Southeast King County readers launched last spring; consolidate some weekday and Sunday features sections; and reduce the newspaper's width by 1 inch in 2009 to save on newsprint."

The paper indicated, however, that at least 55 of the jobs slated to be cut through attrition are unfilled. Seven of the laid off workers will be let go next month, with the rest leaving in July, the Times said.

"Most of the circulation employees work in home delivery, said Liz Brown, administrative officer of the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Guild, which represents most of the affected workers. She and [Vice President Jill] Mackie said the company and union plan to meet to discuss severance benefits," the paper reported. "Brown also said a Times executive told her that 18 part-time circulation field assistants, who deliver missed papers to subscribers, would have their weekly hours reduced to 19, making them ineligible for health insurance."

Mackie declined to confirm those specifics, but told the paper that "a number of employees across the company will have their hours reduced."

"The fact The Times is not slashing its news work force shows its strong commitment to journalism," Brown said in a blog posting, the paper reported. "Compared with what is happening at metro newspapers around the country, the news [Tuesday] could have been much worse."

These cuts follow reports last month that the paper would outsource its trucking operations and vehicle maintenance, eliminating up to 80 company jobs, the Times said.

The bad news also comes just two weeks after an e-mail memo to workers from Publisher Frank Blethen warned of tough times ahead in 2008. In that note, he said print advertising revenue had dropped 9% in 2007 and more than 25% since 2000.

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