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Newspaper layoffs number in the hundreds

Just when it seemed like newspapers were adapting nicely to the digital landscape, a slew of recent layoffs among papers are numbering in the hundreds.

In June, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch laid off 23 employees in the production, information technology and marketing departments, while the Boston Herald offered buyouts. More recently, 21 Buffalo News employees accepted buyouts, 10 of those newsroom employees. And that isn’t even the half of it.

In July, the Dallas Morning News closed its free weekly Quick, laying off a total of nine employees, seven of which were full-timers. Meanwhile, the Orlando Sentinel is planning to lay off 20 workers from copy edit and page design desks. Citing a decline in revenue and page counts, the Los Angeles Times will lay off staffers from its pressroom. In Ohio, the Cox-owned Dayton Daily News announced it would be cutting eight editorial positions. The Dayton Business Journal reported that in addition to those cuts, Cox might be eliminating another 40 positions if it decides to consolidate its copy editing process.

Recently, MediaNews Group announced that its Bay Area News Group division would be downsizing 12 papers into two, and letting 120 staffers go. Associated Press reported that the publishing group was downsizing in order to redirect investments to Internet and mobile devices. Starting Nov. 2, roughly a dozen papers will merge into what will be called the East Bay Tribune and The Times. The newspapers include The Oakland Tribune, Contra Costa Times, Alameda Times-Star, The Daily Review, The Argus, West County Times, The Valley Times, San Ramon Valley Times, Tri-Valley Herald, San Joaquin Herald and East County Times. Meanwhile, Gannett announced its shocking plan to  lay off approximately 700 employees from its U.S. Community Publishing division, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Although newspapers have increasingly been adopting digital practices as their focus and experimenting with paywalls and other means to up revenue, a dismal advertising season has taken its toll in the form of layoffs. “Advertising has been very disappointing, typically down 7 to 10 percent year to year, worse than in the last quarters of 2010,” said Rick Edmonds, media business analyst with the Poynter Institute, in an email interview. “And prospects are not better for the rest of the year – hence the new rounds of cuts. It weakens the print report and digital too and makes it difficult for organizations to find the money for larger scale experiments in new media – as everyone agrees is necessary.”

According to Nielsen data, while radio, television and magazines saw an increase in ad spending in Q1 2011, newspaper advertising has dropped more than 10 percent. MediaDecoder reported that ads in national newspapers fell 7.5 percent compared to the first quarter of 2010, while ads in Spanish-language papers fell 7.4 percent. Internet display ads had the largest gain, increasing by 14.6 percent.

While it’s hopeful that ad spending has begun to grow in the digital spectrum, the decrease in newspaper ad spending and subsequent layoffs doesn’t bode well for the continued survival of the print product. Only time will tell how newspaper ad spending will fare in the remaining months of 2011.

–Katrina M. Mendolera

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