Layoffs at San Jose Mercury News

March 7, 2008 2:29:42 PM PST
The crisis in the housing market has apparently triggered layoffs at the San Jose Mercury News.

According to the president of the San Jose Newspaper Guild who is also an employee of the San Jose Mercury News, newsroom employees were told to wait by their phones between 8:00 and 10:00 am this morning for a call from their supervisor if they were going to be laid off. If they were not called at home, they were told to go into work.

The paper's publisher, Mac Tully, blames the slumping housing market on these layoffs. A total of 34 people were laid off. Fifteen of those layoffs were in the newsroom in addition to five buyouts and five resignations in the past week. Including buyouts, 50 jobs were cut this week.

Tully says advertising for items related to homes like furniture, appliances and home improvement items are down. As home prices drop, it's seeping into other advertising revenue sources like automobile sales.

Newsroom employees are discouraged by these latest layoffs.

"People are feeling really saddened by what they're doing to a fine newspaper and what they've done to this newspaper in just a year and a half. We've lost 150 members of our union alone in 19 months," says Sylvia Ulloa with the San Jose Newspaper Guild.

Outside sales is the only department not affected by layoffs at the San Jose Mercury News.

Tully says it will be a year and a half before he believes they will be able to stabilize their revenue. He says he expects to add staff at that point.

Ulloa says the paper's editorial staff has been cut by more than a third since Denver-based MediaNews Group Inc. took ownership of the paper a year and a half ago. Friday's cuts were the fourth since MediaNews took over the paper.

Staff cuts at other Bay Area papers

A group of newspapers in the eastern San Francisco Bay area plans to cut its staff by 10 percent, but will avoid layoffs because enough workers took buyout offers.

The cuts affect the Contra Costa Times, Oakland Tribune and a string of other daily and weekly newspapers operated by the Bay Area News Group-East Bay. The cuts will come from every department, including the newsroom.

Of the company's 1,100 workers, 107 took buyout offers, sparing the need for layoffs, according to John Armstrong, president of Bay Area News Group-East Bay.

Armstrong said he told the staff the cuts would improve the company's financial health, but warned them he couldn't guarantee there won't be more cuts.

"We feel good about the fact that participation was wide enough we were able to avoid involuntary layoffs," he said. "It's important that our people focus on improving our newspapers and Web sites and growing our revenues and building our audience for advertisers."

The Associated Press contributed to this report