Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2007 | A year after buying out 19 of its most senior newsroom employees, The San Diego Union-Tribune is again reducing its news staff. This time, the cuts are deeper.
The newspaper aims to cut 43 employees in a newsroom of approximately 360 people, a 12 percent reduction in reporters, editors and photographers. Forty employees from other departments are also being targeted in a company of 1,422.
In a Monday memo to employees, the newspaper outlined a menu of staff cuts its management wants to make: nine metro reporters (from a pool that one newsroom source estimated at 75), three columnists, three critics, two photographers and 12 editors or supervisors. If voluntary buyouts are not successful, the memo said the paper would take an “involuntary” approach — layoffs.
The cuts come as the local newspaper’s print circulation has dropped precipitously, echoing a nationwide trend. As people grow more comfortable reading newspapers online, they’re canceling their print subscriptions. Since 2004, the paper has lost 19 percent of its Sunday subscribers, despite aggressively marketing the product, offering two Sunday papers for the price of one.
“This is obviously an organization that is fighting for survival,” said Dean Nelson, director of the journalism program at Point Loma Nazarene University. “We’ve all watched papers become fractions of themselves and send themselves into irrelevance. That’s the risk. Will there be a paper? Yeah. Will there be a good paper? That’s the question.”
Cuts have touched nearly every facet of the company. Citing the burden of estate taxes from company matriarch Helen Copley’s 2004 death, her son, David Copley, sold off smaller newspapers in Ohio, Illinois and the Los Angeles area last year.