Friday, February 6, 2009

Chicago Tribune Plans Job Cuts, Pay-Raise Freeze

By Greg Bensinger

Feb. 6 (Bloomberg) -- Chicago Tribune, the flagship newspaper of bankrupt Tribune Co., will cut more jobs, halt merit pay increases this year and eliminate open positions to help stem a decline in revenue, the publisher told employees in a memo.

“The recession has had a dramatic impact on our revenue performance,” Tony Hunter said today in the memo. “We are experiencing significant declines across all key categories. And it doesn’t look like there’s any relief in sight.”

Tribune, the Chicago-based owner of the Los Angeles Times and eight other dailies, is slashing jobs and selling assets to tackle record print-advertising declines. The Chicago Tribune’s circulation fell 7.8 percent in the year through September, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

Chicago Tribune cut 11 jobs in the newsroom in December, the newspaper said at the time on its Web site. In his memo today, Hunter said cost-saving measures will result in firings over the next few weeks, without specifying how many.

The newspaper said last month it would revamp its presentation, three months after undertaking a redesign that prompted reader complaints. It also began printing a tabloid- sized edition to appeal to commuters.

Gary Weitman, a spokesman for the parent company, declined to comment. Hunter and Janet Dobbs, a spokeswoman for Chicago Tribune, didn’t return calls seeking comment.

To help reduce costs, Tribune’s Sun-Sentinel newspaper in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, will begin publishing its front section using stories from the Chicago Tribune, according to two people who attended a meeting where the plan was announced.

Tribune filed for bankruptcy in December, a year after billionaire Sam Zell and a group of investors took it private in a deal that saddled the company with about $13 billion in debt.
Zell is seeking to sell the Chicago Cubs baseball team and its Wrigley Field stadium to reduce debt. Last month, he entered into exclusive talks on the sale with Tom Ricketts, chairman of Incapital LLC.

To contact the reporter on this story: Greg Bensinger in New York at

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