Friday, February 13, 2009

Chicago Tribune Trims Newsroom Staff

By: Ann Saphir

(Crain’s) — The Chicago Tribune fired 20 members of its newsroom Thursday as it continues to cut costs amid declining ad revenue.

The total, disclosed in a memo to employees late Thursday, brings cuts over the last year to more than 200, or nearly third of the paper’s news-gathering and editing staff.
A Tribune spokeswoman didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The paper’s Rome bureau will be closed, and its presence in Jerusalem scaled back, according to the memo from Editor Gerould Kern.

“We must right-size the company in response to current economic realities and to prepare for the future,” he wrote.

The layoffs included photographers, foreign correspondents and two Pulitzer Prize winners, people with direct knowledge of the cuts said. According to these people, among Thursday’s layoffs were Don Terry, who was part of a New York Times team that won a Pulitzer in 2001 for a series on race in America, business reporter Susan Chandler, food writer Emily Nunn and foreign correspondents Christine Spolar and Joel Greenberg.

Also fired were multimedia producer Christopher Booker and comics coordinator Barbara Schaffner. Features writer Charles Leroux and assistant magazine editor Jeff Lyon, also a Pulitzer Prize winner, are leaving under a buyout offered last year but delayed when Tribune Co. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in December.

In total, management told Chicago Tribune employees at a meeting Monday that the paper would eliminate up to 60 jobs across all departments, according to people who attended.

Tribune warned of the cuts last week when Tony Hunter, CEO of Chicago Tribune Media Group, told employees that the company was “right-sizing activities.” Chicago Tribune Media Group includes the Chicago Tribune,, RedEye, Hoy and Chicago Magazine.

The company’s CEO Sam Zell is trying to renegotiate $12 billion of debt. Last month another of the media company’s papers, the Los Angeles Times, cut about 300 staff.

Thursday’s cuts follow reductions made in December when a dozen newsroom staff positions were eliminated.

The Tribune has been trimming its newsroom for more than year and has already executed at least two rounds of voluntary buyouts and involuntary layoffs. The paper cut about 100 jobs in the spring and another 80 staffers in August. It now has an estimated 460 in its newsroom.

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