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The Tribune has 578 positions on its editorial staff, and roughly 80 of them -- 14 percent of the staff -- will disappear by the end of August. The staff got the word Tuesday afternoon. Twenty of the positions are vacant and will simply be eliminated, but the rest will mean cutting people.
It's this way and worse throughout the Tribune Company. Last week the LA Times announced it was cutting 150 editorial positions, 17 percent of its staff. Earlier the Hartford Courant said it would eliminate 57 editorial jobs, or 25 percent of the staff, and the Baltimore Sun that it would get rid of about 60 -- that's 20 percent of the staff.
It's not a case of strapped papers boasting they'll do more with less. The Tribune Company papers intend to do less with less -- they're all shrinking their news holes to try to bring costs and revenues into balance. A task force of about 30 Tribune staffers is now meeting daily to overhaul the paper, and we'll see the results in September. The same thing is going on at the other papers.
After the Courant's cuts were announced, managing editor Barbara Roessner wrote a letter to readers that began, "It's been a hellish week. . . . Man, when the company tells us we've got to cut our staff and newsprint by 25 percent just to stay in business, it's scary." Roessner said she and her staff were trying to figure out "how to pack a smaller newspaper with such interesting, important, necessary news and information that you'll have to keep reading. You may even enjoy it, relish it, lunge for it."
Or, she went on, "I may soon be tending bar in Vermont. We'll see."