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Originally published Tuesday, November 4, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Seattle Times to cut up to 150 jobs

The Seattle Times Co. announced more cutbacks Monday, including a reduction of 130 to 150 staff positions through a combination of buyouts and layoffs.

Seattle Times staff reporter

The Seattle Times Co. announced more cutbacks Monday, including a reduction of 130 to 150 staff positions through a combination of buyouts and layoffs.

The reduction amounts to a little under 10 percent of the remaining work force and comes seven months after a similar round of cutbacks.

In a memo to staff, Seattle Times Publisher Frank Blethen and President Carolyn Kelly blamed the moves on industry changes and the worldwide financial crisis. They said the company had needed to adjust to structural changes that have reduced advertising revenue in all media.

Even the growth of online revenue — previously a bright spot for the company — has stalled during the worldwide economic slowdown, Blethen and Kelly wrote.

The company hinted there might be more cutbacks to come: "As the 2009 budgeting process continues, there will be additional expense reductions, which may include additional layoffs," the memo stated.

Company spokeswoman Corey Digiacinto said the newsroom would lose 35 to 45 positions from a total of about 260. She said that as of Oct. 8, The Times had 1,599 employees.

Newsroom staff said they were told at an afternoon meeting that the paper would also continue to combine or eliminate sections — the daily Business section was folded into the A section in October — and reduce the total amount of space devoted to news stories.

The company has given staff one week to accept a buyout offer based on their years of service, according to those who attended the meeting.

Yoko Kuramoto-Eidsmoe, local president of the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Guild, said the company has a history of trying to protect its employees and the newspaper but has been forced to make difficult decisions. She said the union would closely monitor any layoffs to ensure they conformed to the terms of the contract.

In their memo, Blethen and Kelly pointed out that The Times was one of the few metro newspapers in the U.S. to increase circulation between 2000 and 2007, and that the company's online network continues to perform well compared with its peers.

"As difficult as these operating decisions are, it is important to remember we have been here for 112 years, weathering many ups and downs, and these budget actions are necessary to respond to the current economic conditions and to position our newspaper and online operations for many more years of success and community service," wrote Blethen and Kelly.

The Times Co. has been trying to sell some of its assets, including four Maine newspapers and two South Lake Union properties. So far, no sales have been announced.

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Newspapers across the country have been laying off thousands of workers and slashing budgets this year as they struggle to adjust to falling revenue. For The Seattle Times and many other newspapers, a sharp drop-off in classified advertising — as people turn more to the Internet to sell refrigerators or used cars — has been a big part of the problem.

Circulation numbers have also been falling. Last month, the Audit Bureau of Circulations reported the combined weekday circulation of 507 newspapers across the country fell 4.6 percent from a year earlier.

The Seattle Times saw average weekday circulation decline 7.7 percent to about 199,000, while the Seattle Post-Intelligencer dropped 7.8 percent to about 118,000. The circulation for the Sunday paper — which bears both the Times and P-I mastheads — fell 9.1 percent to 382,000, the bureau reported.

Under a joint-operating agreement, The Times handles business operations of The Hearst Corp.'s P-I. Both papers maintain separate newsrooms.

P-I Associate Publisher Ken Bunting said the P-I has no immediate plans for layoffs. He said there has been a significant reduction in staff the past two or three years through attrition and, over the past 18 months, an ironclad hiring freeze.

Nick Perry: 206-515-5639 or nperry@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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