Sun cuts 100 jobs, most through voluntary buyouts

July 19, 2008|By Hanah Cho | Hanah Cho,Sun reporter

The Baltimore Sun Media Group, which publishes The Sun and community newspapers, said yesterday it has eliminated about 100 jobs to further cut costs in an industry grappling with eroding advertising revenue and circulation.

The Sun's newsroom is losing 55 people, or about 20 percent of its current work force. That consists of 43 who are leaving by voluntary buyout, 11 by layoff and one by transfer to the community newspapers unit, according to the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild, which represents nearly 400 Sun workers.

"Whether people are leaving voluntarily or involuntarily, they are still leaving, and that means there will be 55 people fewer in the newsroom to do the good journalism that this community has come to expect," said Tanika White, a reporter and co-chair of The Sun unit of the Guild.

The newsroom currently has 282 employees, according to the Guild.

Six jobs are being eliminated in the classified call center, according to the Guild, which covers employees in news, advertising, circulation, building and finance departments.

The company would not comment on specific numbers by department or individuals.

"We achieved our work force reduction goal with a vast majority of the staff reductions coming from attrition, open positions and voluntary separations," said Judy Berman, the media group's senior vice president of marketing. "A small number of involuntary separations did occur. ... However, we did work to minimize the number of involuntary separations and to ensure that The Sun will continue award-winning coverage and serve readers."

In addition to The Sun, the media group includes Patuxent Publishing Co., publisher of community newspapers; Homestead Publishing Co., which produces community papers in Harford County, including The Aegis in Bel Air; and b, a free daily tabloid aimed at young adults.

Tribune Co., parent of Baltimore Sun Media Group, is struggling with large debt and rising production costs amid continuing declines in revenue as readers migrate to alternative media, including the Internet.

Since acquiring control of the company in December in an $8.2 billion buyout, Chicago real estate mogul Sam Zell has abandoned his plan to avoid large-scale cost-cutting in light of increasing weakness in the advertising market and a slumping economy.

Tribune executives want all of the company's newspapers to reduce both staff and the number of pages they print. All of the newspapers are to be redesigned by the end of September. Other Tribune newspapers include the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and The Hartford Courant.

Yesterday, Sun editor Timothy A. Franklin announced the number of newsroom job cuts in a short meeting described by staffers who attended as somber. Those leaving the paper include reporters, editors, copy editors, designers and support staff.

Newsroom employees given buyouts are expected to leave by the end of the month, while those laid off may choose to leave now or stay until Aug. 15, White said.

hanah.cho@baltsun.com

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