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The clock ticks Monday at the Sun-Times. By the end of the day management hopes to have a long-enough list of employees willing to accept buyouts to avoid having to make layoffs. Over the weekend I was told 11 editorial employees had volunteered, but another three names or so were needed. The target is financial: the paper's losing money and the time has come to drill yet another hole in its belt. (The Sun-Times and Reader are both owned by Wrapports LLC.)
I just came across a column of mine from May of 1995. I wrote about "buyout fever" in the "decimated Sun-Times newsroom." And I reported:
The Sun-Times has launched its own SWAT offensive. That's for Sales War Attack Team. If you're one of the few, the bold, you get to climb aboard a delivery truck at two in the morning and ride it and try to figure out why circulation's down (from 523,709 daily to 500,969, according to this week's Audit Bureau of Circulations figures). "
Last October's figures from the renamed Alliance for Audited Media said print circulation at the paper reportedly ranged from 119,000 to 141,000 copies a day. Craig Rosenbaum, executive director of the Chicago Newspaper Guild (which Reader employees recently joined), couldn't say what the guild membership at the Sun-Times was in 1995, but in 2004, when he came to Chicago, it was about 200 (after nearly a decade of decimation).
Today, said Rosenbaum—meaning prior to the buyouts and layoffs the Sun-Times is now demanding—it's 73.