Tribune Publishing’s newspapers including the New York Daily News and the Chicago Tribune this week found out what a new round of staffing cuts will mean for deadlines and the size of their papers — and the operative word, as elsewhere, is “tight.”
In a Sunday e-mail from the Chicago-based Design Production Studio obtained by Media Ink, the company said that all papers must slash local and feature pages by 20 percent, move up their deadlines by as much as two hours and that most of the special sections should be put on “pause.”
That’s despite the fact that Tribune’s papers have already gone through several rounds of painful cuts. The copyediting and design of the Daily News, for example, has been operating out of Chicago for the past two years.
And if local editors thought they could rely on wire copy to fill empty pages, that’s likewise being curtailed. “Local markets stop pulling their own national wire stories and better utilize existing mods,” read the directive.
Sunday’s memo came two days after dozens of employees opted to take advantage of the voluntary buyouts pushed by cost-slashing hedge fund Alden Global Capital. No official estimate on the number of buyouts was available but one source estimated it was close to 100 people nationally.
Alden, headed by Heath Freeman, took over Tribune publishing last month in a deal valued at $633 million. The New York-based investor began moving for editorial buyouts within days of the takeover and the deadline to accept the offers was June 16. The Fund didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Among those who took the buyout package was Rick Hutzell, the editor-in-chief of Capital Gazette, who noted in his farewell column published Saturday that he was leaving three years after a crazed gunman attacked the paper and killed five colleagues.
“A man with a shotgun tried to kill us — to kill me and the newspaper I’ve poured my life into for 33 years. I wasn’t going to let it die,” Hutzell wrote. “I wish I could say it’s all been grand and I’m headed off to retirement, but it hasn’t and I’m not.”
At the Chicago NewsGuild, union rep Greg Pratt tweeted that 26 Guild members had taken advantage of the buyout, which of course would not have included non-union editorial management types. Sources said that at the Hartford Courant, eight people opted out.
The number of buyouts at the Daily News could not be learned at the time of writing. The NewsGuild, which represents eight of the nine major metro dailies, did not get back with an official tally.