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West Coast cutbacks.

West Coast cutbacks

S.F. Examiner drops 25 editorial employees, including columnist Warren Hinckle; other Bay area papers report cost-cutting measures

The San Francisco Examiner has dropped 25 editorial employees, including columnist Warren Hinckle, through buyouts and job-sharing arrangements, according to executive editor Larry Kramer.

Personnel cuts also were announced by Lesher Communications Inc. newspapers and the Alameda Newspaper Group in the San Francisco East Bay region. It also was reported that the Oakland Tribune has fallen two months behind in payment of health benefit premiums, forcing employees to make the payments themselves.

Kramer said the Examiner, in an arrangement with the Newspaper Guild, took the step as a cost-saving measure.

"Everyone wanted to avoid seniority layoffs," which would have occurred if the offer of "enhancement of normal severance pay" had not been accepted, he added.

Generally, according to Kramer, normal dismissal pay was increased by 50% with a $5,000 minimum buyout. Average buyouts, he said, ranged from $20,000-$30,000, with a few in the $60,000-$70,000 range. Only two part-timers were laid off, he disclosed.

At the time Hinckle accepted the recent buyout offer, he was on unpaid leave from the Examiner as a result of a dispute with the paper over his residency in New York City (E&P, Feb. 16). Publisher Will Hearst and Kramer said they wanted Hinckle to be a San Francisco-based columnist instead of commuting from New York.

Kramer said, however, that Hinckle's buyout does not necessarily bar him from writing for the Examiner.

"He won't be a staffer anymore but we can buy his material on a freelance basis," the editor explained.

Examiner general manager James Sevrens said there has been a "significant" decline in projected revenues of the San Francisco Newspaper Agency under which the Examiner and the San Francisco Chronicle have a joint operating agreement.

The San Francisco Chronicle was not cutting staff at the time of this writing, according to executive editor Bill German, but he added that the paper is constantly seeking ways to reduce costs, commenting, "We're not ruling anything out."

He pointed out that the Chronicle has only three writers at the San Francisco Giants' spring training camp, compared with seven in other years.

"We're not shooting off in all directions anymore," he remarked.

A Lesher spokeswoman, Christina Gray, said 23 full- and part-time positions were cut at the chain's flagship newspaper, the Contra Costa Times, five to six in editorial.

The paper, she said, had achieved the cuts by eliminating positions as part of its "streamlining of operations."

J. Allan Meath, publisher of the Alameda group, said there have been 29 layoffs in the past two months among its four dailies in the East Bay.

The Northern California Newspaper Guild reported that the Oakland Tribune has fallen two months behind in health benefit payments and that employees were told they must make the payments to keep their benefits.

Guild administrative officer Larkie Gildersleeve told E&P that the Tribune was "scrambling" to find the money for the payments and promised to reimburse the workers for their payments. She said the Tribune's arrears amounted to approximately $80,000.

"It's a gamble," Gildersleeve said about the reimbursement. Earlier, the Guild had agreed to an 11% wage cut to help the financially troubled Tribune get back on its feet.

Tribune general manager Richard Wyckoff confirmed Gildersleeve's information, saying, "We are trying to catch up" on the health benefit premiums.

On the San Francisco Peninsula, there was some good and bad news. Robert P. Wood, publisher of the Peninsula Times Tribune, said that the paper was deferring hiring in support functions, but would be taking on new employees in advertising and editorial to fill long-standing vacancies.

At the San Mateo Times, publisher John H. Clinton reported that "less than 10" layoffs had taken place in a work force of 240.
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Title Annotation:newspaper layoffs in the San Francisco Bay Area
Author:Stein, M.L.
Publication:Editor & Publisher
Date:Apr 6, 1991
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