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NY Times, Washington Post to cull staff

The New York Times and Washington Post, two of the most prestigious titles in American journalism, announced another round of cost-cutting amid a steep decline in advertising revenue.

The New York Times reported that its parent company, the Times Co., plans to slash the pay of most employees by five percent for nine months, in return for 10 days of leave, and to lay off 100 people.

The Washington Post said employees were being offered another round of buyouts, or early retirement packages -- the second within a year -- in an effort to cut costs.

The Times said the pay cuts will be in effect from April to December and will apply to staff at the Boston Globe newspaper in addition to the flagship New York Times.

It said the company will ask the Guild, the union which represents most newsroom employees, to accept the five percent cut and 10 days off voluntarily to avoid possible layoffs.

The newspaper said there would also be pay cuts of about 2.5 percent at smaller parts of the Times Co., including and a chain of small newspapers. Employees will get five days off.

It said the 100 layoffs would be on the business side of the newspaper.

At the end of 2008, the Times Co. had a total of 9,346 employees, the newspaper said, down from 10,710 two years earlier. The Times eliminated 100 jobs from its 1,300-strong newsroom last year.

The Post said the latest buyouts were being offered to employees aged 50 or more, with five years of Post service.

"This program will be limited to areas where positions do not need to be replaced or where we can otherwise achieve costs savings," publisher Katharine Weymouth was quoted as saying in an e-mail to employees.

"While we expect to be able to achieve meaningful staff reductions through" the buyouts, Weymouth said, "I am sorry to say that we cannot rule out layoffs in the future."

The newspaper said the targeted departments include the Post newsroom, the production and circulation departments, and a small number of positions in the advertising and information technology departments.

The Post said 231 employees took buyouts last year and the newsroom now employs 700 people.

The Post recorded an operating loss of 25 million dollars last year and it quoted Post Co. chairman Donald Graham as saying in a letter to shareholders that he expects to lose "substantial money" in 2009.

Times Co.'s net profit fell 47 percent in the fourth quarter of the year and the company recently suspended its dividend for the first time since it went public.

Earlier this month, the Times Co. also finalized a sale-leaseback agreement for part of its Manhattan headquarters in a move aimed at raising cash to pay down its debt.

Like other US newspapers, the Times and the Post have been grappling with a steep drop in print advertising revenue, steadily declining circulation and the migration of readers to free news online.

Two major newspapers -- the Rocky Mountain News of Denver, Colorado, and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer -- have shut down in recent weeks and the Christian Science Monitor plans to publish its final print edition on Friday.

The Times Co. gained 8.97 percent on Wall Street on Thursday to close at 4.98 dollars while the Post Co., which derives a large portion of revenue and profit from Kaplan Inc., a company which provides educational services, gained 1.84 percent to 384.28 dollars.

Copyright 2009 AFP American Edition
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Publication:AFP American Edition
Date:Mar 27, 2009
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