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Observer cutting 9% of workforce

A third round of trims comes amid slumping economy and changes to the media industry.

By Rick Rothacker
rrothacker@charlotteobserver.com

For the third time in five months, the Charlotte Observer, amid a slumping economy and a changing media landscape, is cutting jobs through voluntary buyouts – and layoffs, if necessary.

Publisher Ann Caulkins said the Carolinas' largest newspaper is eliminating about 9 percent of its work force, about 75 positions, with a nearly companywide buyout offer. The reductions are to be completed Oct. 3.

“The economy is really, really tough,” Caulkins said during remarks to the newsroom Wednesday.

In June, the paper said it was eliminating 123 positions – about 11 percent of its then 1,100-member work force – as part of sweeping cuts across its parent, Sacramento, Calif.-based McClatchy Co.

Other McClatchy papers, including the News & Observer of Raleigh, also are embarking on more buyouts as the newspaper industry wrestles with falling advertising revenue in the down economy and as people increasingly turn to the Internet. The Observer currently has the equivalent of 810 full-time employees, which includes additional attrition.

The Observer newsroom has about 200 employees.

Caulkins said the newspaper will work to maintain the quality that readers expect despite this latest round of cuts.

She also has emphasized the Observer's transformation into a media company that distributes news and advertising through its charlotteobserver.com Web site and magazines.

Asked whether the paper will have to make more cuts in the future, Caulkins told staffers, “I can't promise you anything.”

Besides jobs, the paper will look to trim other expenses, Caulkins said, but she didn't provide specifics.

McClatchy has also sold buildings and properties in recent months to raise money.

The newspaper chain has sent consultants to its newspapers to evaluate their properties, Caulkins said.

In June, she had said the Observer was likely to evaluate its holdings.

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