Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2008 | The San Diego Union-Tribune laid off 27 employees Tuesday afternoon, including at least five newsroom staffers, the latest cut in a company that has reduced its workforce by 10 percent in the past month.
On top of the layoffs, the Union-Tribune has bought out 76 employees since late December, laid off an additional 14 press room workers and told 18 advertising artists their positions would be outsourced later this year.
The layoffs mark a seminal moment for the local newspaper: visceral evidence of the extent of the company’s financial struggles. While the newspaper has previously acknowledged the challenges posed by an industry-wide financial downturn, it has addressed them through less painful methods, either by enticing employees to leave with voluntary buyouts or by not filling vacant positions.
In a memo to employees, Gene Bell, president and CEO of Copley Press, the La Jolla-based company that owns the Union-Tribune, said the company needed to transform into “a new media company that will regain its footing as an independent and powerful force in the future of our region.”
“Not since the merger of the Union and Tribune over 15 years ago have we faced such wrenching changes,” he wrote. “At the same time, never in our history have we faced revenue losses as dramatic as those of the last 12 months.”
Bell did not say how large the losses were. Those figures are not public because Copley Press is privately held. If the company fails to bring its costs in line with revenues, “we face a slippery slope of ever more difficult measures,” Bell wrote. “Our goal is to avoid sliding down that slope and, instead, to convert our many competitive strengths into new strategies. … [W]e cannot succeed without conserving and redirecting our resources.”