Tribune slashing jobs as McClatchy freefalls
March 9, 2009
By KAREN VELIE
San Luis Obispo County’s daily newspaper, The Tribune, will terminate seven employees, and its top officials are reported to be warning of massive layoffs to come in the wake of a similarly foreboding announcement this morning by parent company McClatchy Newspapers Inc.
Tribune executives told staff, said one employee, that “they are facing bankruptcy if [the newspaper] is not sold within 30 days.”
Tribune publisher Bruce Ray said there has been no talk of bankruptcy and directed a CalCoastNews reporter to call corporate offices in Sacramento.
McClatchy Newspaper Inc. Treasurer Elaine Lintecum was asked if The Tribune was for sale, and facing financial difficulties if such a sale did not occur within 30 days.
“That is speculation. We don’t comment on speculation or news that hasn’t been released to the public,” she said. The Tribune’s parent company, McClatchy Newspapers Inc, said today it will reduce its workforce by 15 percent, or around 1,600 full-time equivalent employees, and cut wages for remaining staff as part of previously announced restructuring plans.
In September, a group of county investors, hoping to keep The Tribune locally owned, revealed attempts to purchase the struggling daily from its parent company. Sources said today that possibility still exists.
Newspapers throughout the country are stretched thin as they struggle with decreased readership and mounting debts. McClatchy, the country’s third largest newspaper chain, was more than $2 billion in debt at the end of 2008.
In 2007, McClatchy’s stock plunged nearly 70 percent. In January 2008, stock sold for approximately $10 a share. And this afternoon, following today’s announcement, stock fell 30 percent to 41 cents a share.
Since the early 1990s, newspaper readerships has been on a steady decline, with a 19 percent reduction in advertising revenue over the past four years. In contrast, the online news audience has skyrocketed from approximately 40 million in 2004, to 69 million as of October 2008, according to Nielsen online.