Star Tribune to cut 100 more jobs

  • Article by: JENNIFER BJORHUS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 9, 2009 - 9:45 PM

The reductions come as the newspaper tries to find a strategy that will bring growth.

The Star Tribune is slashing another 100 jobs across the company as it struggles to recalibrate out of bankruptcy.

The 9 percent total reduction will be done by the end of the year, but 30 of the cuts will come from the Star Tribune's newsroom and those may take a little longer, the company said Monday. The Star Tribune's operating committee also said the newspaper will redesign its website in 2010 and expand the amount and types of information available to readers as it works on a new growth strategy.

"The cracking of our historical economic model and the current Great Recession have forced us to move quickly to make meaningful and difficult adjustments over the next few months," the committee said in a memo to employees Monday.

Editor Nancy Barnes told newsroom staff that she believes the newspaper will succeed in "reinventing" its business and that it won't diminish news coverage.

"Newspapers have been struggling financially, but not for readers,'' Barnes said. "We have tremendous reach. We actually have more readers than we did a decade ago, only some of them are reading us online or on mobile rather than in print.''

Barnes and Mike Sweeney, the company's new chairman, declined to elaborate.

News of a fresh round of layoffs comes less than six weeks after the 142-year-old Star Tribune exited Chapter 11 bankruptcy. While most employees had anticipated another round of layoffs, the scope of the reductions came as a surprise.

"I had always thought of something like 10 or 15 being a realistic number," said Graydon Royce, arts reporter and co-chairman of the Minnesota Newspaper Guild. "Thirty people losing their jobs is a big deal."

The company is required to offer buyouts in the newsroom before it lays off Guild workers. In all, the company has 10 unions and many non-union employees.

Company spokesman Ben Taylor said the 70 cuts outside the newsroom would affect all departments. He couldn't detail the breakdown or time frame.

The pink slips started coming Monday. Duane Lee, a project coordinator in the facilities department, said he was told his job would be eliminated Dec. 31 and that he was part of the 100 layoffs. The company gave him an employee-of-the-year award in 2004, Lee said.

Taylor said the cuts were unrelated to the bankruptcy, which was about restructuring debt. Bankruptcy "doesn't mean you correct everything for all times," Taylor said.

The Star Tribune exited bankruptcy Sept. 28, eight months after falling circulation and ad revenue drove the company's previous owners to reorganize and restructure its debt payments. New York-based Avista Capital borrowed heavily to buy the Star Tribune from the McClatchy Co. in 2007.

The newspaper is one of several that have filed bankruptcy, rocked by the recession and changes in technology. Total paid circulation for U.S. newspapers has fallen to the lowest level since the 1940s, according to a recent article in the New York Times.

During bankruptcy, the Star Tribune's major secured creditors swapped about $480 million they were owed for ownership of the newspaper, plus a reduced $100 million in debt.

It's unclear when the newspaper will return a profit. However, the company maintains it will generate enough cash to fund operations and make its debt payments as it works to devise a new growth strategy.

Since 2006 the Star Tribune has shrunk its workforce by nearly 40 percent, or the equivalent of 779 full-time employees. That's helped it carve off $91 million in costs since 2006. The company is looking for a new publisher.

Jennifer Bjorhus • 612-673-4683

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