Rough Wednesday at the Tribune & Other Media News


Will Tampa Tribune reporters and editors be meeting with The Bobs any time soon?

Tribune staffers who attended a brown-bag lunch on Wednesday with Editor Janet Weaver didn't have much to celebrate, as sources who requested anonymity tell Blurbex that tough times may call for tough measures at 200 S. Parker Street.

They said Weaver told the newsroom that January was a bad month, revenue-wise, and that she and the paper's publisher would be talking turkey on how that will impact editorial operations, which already has approximately 30 unfilled positions in the newsroom. (Other jobs, including a senior feature reporter, continue to be advertised in journalism employment listings, so it doesn't appear to be a total freeze on new hirings.)

One source said Weaver did not rule out layoffs but added that no decisions have been made. Most newsfolks I talked with, however, didn't think it would come to pink slips.

The Tribune is not alone in its difficulties: The St. Petersburg Times is cutting jobs through attrition. Louis Hau, a former business writer for the Times, wrote in Forbes recently:

Executive Editor Neil Brown warned recently in the Times'

in-house newsletter that the paper’s profits this year “if there are

any, will be dangerously low.” As a result, the paper plans to

eliminate 80 to 90 jobs companywide by the end of 2007, mostly through

attrition. Some of those cuts will come from the newsroom, which is

already more than 15 jobs over budget. Hiring from outside the company

will become “very rare.”

Daily newspapers across the country are taking job hits, and weeklies are feeling the same pressures. January was a slow month at Creative Loafing, as well, with ad sales flat, according to CL Publisher Amber Abram. "January wasn't phenomenal, but we didn't lose money," Abram said. "It's just slow." Notable slowdowns came in national advertising and classified, where free websites such as Craig's List are hurting weeklies and dailies alike. At the Trib, fourth quarter 2006 saw real estate classified off more than 17 percent, according to parent company Media General. Help-wanted classified revenues — long a cash cow for the Tribune — were down a stunning 29 percent.

CL Tampa Bay is not cutting editorial positions or freezing hiring (we just hired a new music writer, in fact). The company eliminated one position late last year in sales, laying off a senior advertising manager. Salaries are frozen in the current fiscal year budget, but Abram said no further cuts will be needed.

Speaking of Abram, she is departing the company to move to Boston at the end of March. Advertising director Sharry Smith will become publisher, and James Howard moves up to head the ad sales team.

The developments in local print media are sad to see. Fewer reporters means less news, less holding government accountable, fewer chances for diversity in coverage.


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