The Baltimore Sun has cut its newsroom staff by nearly a third in a reorganization the company said would help it not just survive but succeed in one of the worst economic downturns in decades.
The news company, whose parent Tribune Co. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in December, laid off 61 newsroom staffers, a spokeswoman said Wednesday.
The reductions hit nearly every type of job in the 205-person newsroom, including top editors, news photographers, critics, columnists, sports reporters, copy editors, page designers and graphic artists, according to The Newspaper Guild, which was notified of the union-represented layoffs. One news reporter was laid off as well, after leaving voluntarily. Most employees were notified Wednesday, with others laid off late Tuesday.
The moves were made as the company is restructuring The Baltimore Sun's newsroom, said Renee Mutchnik, a spokeswoman for the Baltimore Sun Media Group.
"We're going to become a 24-hour, local news-gathering media company so we can more effectively gather content and distribute it among our different platforms: print, online and mobile," Mutchnik said. "As everyone knows, more and more readers are moving online, and advertisers are following them. This is our plan for success, not just survival."
Newspapers across the country are struggling through the recession, which has exacerbated sharp declines in circulation and advertising revenue, caused partly by online competition. Newspapers have laid off staff, eliminated sections, entered into bankruptcy or folded altogether.
Though some layoffs were anticipated, the number of reductions this week surprised some employees.
"It's stunning, just the breadth of them across the board," said Angie Kuhl, The Baltimore Sun's unit chairwoman for the Guild, which represents 148 newsroom workers, including 40 who were laid off Wednesday. Last June, Tribune began redesigning all of its newspapers to reduce them in size and staff. The Baltimore Sun Media Group eliminated 100 jobs companywide in early August, many through voluntary buyouts. In December, Tribune said it was forced to file voluntary bankruptcy protection to restructure crippling debt that became unsustainable in a recession.