Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Raleigh TV station reports News & Observer to lay off 10 percent of newsroom... atmosphere at newspaper "incredibly anxious"

A Raleigh television station is reporting McClatchy's News & Observer newspaper is preparing to lay off 10 percent of its newsroom staff, based on sources inside the newspaper. WRAL.com:
The News & Observer is preparing to lay off about 10 percent of its newsroom staff and will announce other cuts affecting its news operation, sources inside the N&O tell WRAL.com.

However, a formal announcement may not come until next week. The N&O is part of the McClatchy (NYSE: MNI) newspaper chain, and the group reportedly is planning to announce corporate-wide cutbacks, one newsroom source said. McClatchy also owns The Charlotte Observer.

The nation’s third largest newspaper chain is based in Sacramento, Calif. It reported May 21 that revenues for the first four months of 2008 were down 14 percent from the same time period in 2007. McClatchy stock hit a 52-week low of $7.59 on Tuesday.

Asked about layoffs, Felicia Gressette, vice president of marketing for The N&O who spoke on behalf of publisher Orage Quarles III, said, “We’re just not going to comment.”

When asked about other cost-cutting moves, Gressette noted: “Any changes will be announced in The N&O, not WRAL.com.”

The layoffs could affect as few as 15 or as many as 30 newsroom staffers, the sources said. Numerous people expected the layoffs to be made Monday following an announcement John Drescher, the paper’s senior vice president and executive editor, at a recent staff meeting that layoffs would take place.

“Management put out the word that layoffs were coming,” one source said. “There was no timeline.” Among the staff, “no one knows the criteria” that will be followed in determining who is let go, the source added.

A person in direct contact with several newsroom staffers described the atmosphere at The N&O as “incredibly anxious … People are waiting for the hammer to fall.”

Word of the pending layoffs surprised many among the “rank and file,” according to one source who spoke on the basis of anonymity. They had expected that a series of voluntary buyouts offered by The N&O in April would be enough to pare newsroom expenses as the paper struggles with its finances but “Things just changed at the corporate level,” the insider said.
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