Memphis paper moves to cut staff; offers buyouts to 170 |

Memphis paper moves to cut staff; offers buyouts to 170

Associated Press

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – The Commercial Appeal, Memphis’ major daily newspaper, reported Friday that it will offer buyouts to about 170 employees in order to reduce staff by mid-January.Editor Chris Peck said the newspaper does not have a target for how many jobs it will eliminate, but he does not expect “more than a handful of people to actually take the buyout.”The newspaper, which is owned by the E.W. Scripps Co., has 774 employees.Workers age 50 and older and who have been with the newspaper at least 15 years will be offered financial incentives for early retirement. Terms of the proposed buyout were not disclosed.Commercial Appeal executives blamed the job cuts on rising operating costs.”It’s a fact of life. We have to change the way we do business,” said publisher Joe Pepe, who joined the newspaper this month. “All businesses, including newspapers, are going to have to do more with less or find more cost-effective ways of doing the work to stay competitive.”Peck said 51 members of the newsroom staff are eligible for the buyout.”Whatever the reduction might be in editorial, I am confident we will maintain our ability to cover the news,” Peck said.The Commercial Appeal has cut jobs for four consecutive years. Eight newsroom employees took similar buyouts in 2003.”I feel for those people who may have to move to a different career,” said Mark Watson, president of the Memphis Newspaper Guild. “I hate to see the community lose the benefit of the wisdom of these people being asked, in effect, to stop offering their service to the paper.”The job-reduction plan was outlined to the first group of eligible employees Thursday. They have until Nov. 30 to make a decision and 45 days after that to choose a retirement date.Beside The Commercial Appeal, Cincinnati-based Scripps owns the Knoxville News-Sentinel and 18 other daily newspapers, 10 broadcast television stations, and five cable and satellite television networks such as HGTV.The Memphis paper’s move follows the announcement this week that six newspapers owned by Tribune Co., including the company’s two flagship papers in Chicago and Los Angeles, will cut jobs amid declining circulation and revenue.John Morton, a media consultant with Morton Research in Silver Spring, Md., said stocks in publicly traded newspaper companies are down 21 percent nationwide since the beginning of the year.”Basically newspaper ad revenues are not keeping pace with inflation,” Morton said.Vail, Colorado

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