Corporate Power/Consolidation

Seattle Times freezing nonunion pensions

Andrea James, Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Four days after telling its nonunion employees that they each must take one week of unpaid leave, The Seattle Times has confirmed that it will also freeze their pensions.

The freeze takes effect Feb. 6 and stops benefit accruals for the current plan year. It does not affect the company's 401(k) plan.

"The specific savings related to this action are not going to be released publicly," Times spokeswoman Jill Mackie said. "We regret the effect of these decisions on our employees. We have a remarkable work force, and we are doing what we can to respond to the financial challenges we face during this unprecedented tough economy."

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Seattle Times asks employees to take (unpaid) vacation

Associated Press

The Seattle Times on Friday asked 500 managers and nonunion workers to take a week off without pay in the face of mounting financial troubles at the newspaper.

Executive Editor David Boardman broke the news in a meeting with editors Friday morning.

Employees may take the week off all at once, one day at a time, or in multiple-day blocks, but it must be taken by the end of February, Alayne Fardella, senior vice president for business operations, wrote in a staff memo.

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Wall Street Journal: Google wants its own fast track on the web

Vishesh Kumar and Christopher Rhoads, Wall Street Journal

The celebrated openness of the Internet -- network providers are not supposed to give preferential treatment to any traffic -- is quietly losing powerful defenders.

Google Inc. has approached major cable and phone companies that carry Internet traffic with a proposal to create a fast lane for its own content, according to documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. Google has traditionally been one of the loudest advocates of equal network access for all content providers.

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Workers pay for debacle at Tribune

Andrew Ross Sorkin, New York Times

Sam Zell acknowledged from the start that his deal for the Tribune Company was flawed.

“I’m here to tell you that the transaction from hell is done,” Mr. Zell said last December when he sealed his $8.2 billion takeover of the publisher of The Chicago Tribune and The Los Angeles Times.

But just how hellish this deal was, particularly for Tribune employees, became painfully clear on Monday when the 161-year-old company filed for bankruptcy.

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Seattle Times puts some new land up for collateral

Bill Richards, Crosscut

In a move that was not wholly unexpected, the financially struggling Seattle Times said Sunday, Dec. 7, that to cut expenses it plans to immediately shrink its current four daily newspaper sections to three, eliminating a number of daily features, including the New York Times crossword puzzle and daily television listings. “I am in the truth-telling business,” Executive Editor David Boardman said in a signed column in the Times. “We are making these changes because we are reducing our two biggest newsroom expenses: staff and newsprint.”

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Tribune Co. may file for bankruptcy

DENNIS K. BERMAN, SHIRA OVIDE and MATTHEW KARNITSCHNIG, Wall Street Journal

Tribune Co. is preparing for a possible filing for bankruptcy-court protection as soon as this week, according to people familiar with the matter, in a sign of worsening trouble for the newspaper industry.

In recent days, as Chicago-based Tribune continued talks with lenders to restructure its debt, the newspaper-and-television concern hired investment bank Lazard Ltd. as its financial adviser and law firm Sidley Austin to advise the company on a possible trip through Chapter 11 bankruptcy, people familiar with the matter say.

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Group signs deal to buy Blethen Maine Newspapers

Tux Terkel, Portland Press Herald

An investment group that includes principals who are well-known in Maine has signed a purchase agreement to buy the state's largest newspaper company by year's end, pending the completion of financing.

Maine Media Investment LLC signed the document Tuesday with Blethen Maine Newspapers, which owns the Portland Press Herald/ Maine Sunday Telegram, the Kennebec Journal in Augusta and the Morning Sentinel in Waterville, and other media products in the state.

Both sides announced the sale late Wednesday. Each declined to disclose the price or other terms of the agreement.

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Seattle Times Co. to cut work force by about 10%

Nick Perry, Seattle Times

The Seattle Times Co. announced more cutbacks today, including a reduction of 130 to 150 staff positions through a combination of buyouts and layoffs.

The reduction amounts to just under 10 percent of the remaining work force and comes seven months after a similar round of cutbacks.

In a memo to staff, Seattle Times Publisher Frank Blethen and company President Carolyn Kelly blamed the moves on industry changes and the worldwide financial crisis. They said the company needs to adjust to structural changes that have reduced advertising revenue in all media. Even the growth of online revenue — previously a bright spot for the company — has stalled during the worldwide economic slowdown, Blethen and Kelly wrote.

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Christian Science Monitor to go weekly

Jon Fine, BusinessWeek

The Christian Science Monitor, which turns 100 years old this year, is announcing on Tuesday, Oct. 28, that it will cease daily publication next April. The newspaper will shift to a weekly print format while increasing its emphasis on its Web site, says its editor, John Yemma.

In doing so, the Monitor will become by far the most prominent newspaper to scale back its print edition substantially.

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The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey