Ledger-Enquirer eliminates 20 positions

The Ledger-Enquirer said Tuesday it is cutting its work force for the third time in less than a year as part of a restructuring by its parent firm, The McClatchy Co.

The newspaper will eliminate 20 positions, said Ledger-Enquirer Publisher Valerie Canepa. Thirteen of those positions are open and not being filled. There will be seven layoffs spread across the company, she said.

“These are painful cuts, and we do not like to make them,” Canepa said in a statement. “But advertising revenue continues to decline in a weak economy and we must adjust our operating costs. We reviewed our budget line by line to capture savings in a number of areas. But, unfortunately, it was not enough to avoid further downsizing.”

The Ledger-Enquirer cut 10 positions last June through voluntary buyouts. That included five newsroom employees. In September, it eliminated nine more positions, four of them through buyouts. The rest were open jobs.

The current round of employee cuts will reduce the work force from 179 to 159, or 11 percent, Canepa said. The displaced staffers come from the newsroom, finance, advertising and advertising production departments. No reporters, photographers or outside sales people are being laid off, she said. The layoffs will take place this month and in April.

Some finance and accounting tasks will be moved to the Macon Telegraph newspaper to create a regional finance center, the publisher said, while most advertising production work will be handled in Macon.

Sacramento, Calif.-based McClatchy again mandated the latest round of cuts, announcing March 9 that it was shrinking its overall work force by 1,600, or 15 percent, and slashing expenses by more than $110 million.

The company already announced in February that it was freezing employee pensions and temporarily halting matching contributions to workers’ 401(k) savings plans. That takes effect March 31.

The newspaper industry has suffered financially as print subscribers migrated to the Internet for news and information during recent years.

The situation was exacerbated by the housing-market meltdown and a severe national recession that has pinched retail and classified advertising.

Newspapers, meanwhile, have been spending heavily on making the transformation from a print-only product to one that encompasses various media, including the Web.

“We have been transitioning steadily from a traditional newspaper company to a hybrid print and online, news and advertising company for some time,” Gary Pruitt, McClatchy’s chairman and chief executive officer, said in announcing the current cuts.

“The effects of the current national economic downturn make it essential that we move even faster to realign our workforce and make our operations more efficient,” he said. “We previously discussed a plan to reach a targeted level of cost savings, but given the worsening economy, we must do more. I’m sorry we have to take these actions, but we believe they are necessary.”

Locally, that means more belt-tightening by the Ledger-Enquirer. Expense cuts include reducing wages of employees making more than $26,000 per year. The salary cuts range from 2.5 percent to 8 percent and take effect in April, Canepa said.

The newspaper is also selling one of the three buildings it owns in downtown Columbus. The vacant six-floor tower at the corner of Twelfth Street and Broadway, which has been for lease several months, is now being put on the market.

Employees have been relocated from that building, built in the early 1970s, to two adjoining structures that include office space and a production and printing area. W.C. Bradley Co. Real Estate LLC will handle the listing, the company said.

The Ledger-Enquirer also said in February it will begin printing the Macon Telegraph and its other publications. That begins April 7.

When the third round of job cuts are completed, McClatchy will have slashed 4,150 positions since June — nearly a third of its payroll. It will then have about 9,200 workers.

The third-largest newspaper chain — behind Gannett Co. and Tribune Co. — McClatchy owns The Miami Herald, The Sacramento Bee, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, The Kansas City Star, the Charlotte Observer and The (Raleigh) News & Observer.

Employee cuts have varied by newspaper, with 175 positions being eliminated in Miami, 128 in Sacramento, 150 in Kansas City and 78 in Raleigh.