Observer cutting 9 percent of workforce

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

Publisher Ann Caulkins said the Carolinas' largest newspaper aims to eliminate more than 9 percent of its workforce, roughly 75 positions, with a nearly companywide buyout offer. The reductions are to be completed Oct. 3.

“The economy is really, really tough,” Caulkins told the newsroom this morning.

In June, the paper announced plans to eliminate 123 positions, about 11 percent of its workforce, as part of sweeping cuts across its parent company, 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 circulation and advertising revenue as readers increasingly turn to the Internet for their news.

The Observer currently has the equivalent of 810 full-time employees, which includes additional attrition. The Observer newsroom has around 200 employees.

Caulkins said the newspaper aims 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 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 is sending consultants to its newspapers to evaluate their properties, Caulkins said. In June, she had said the Observer was likely to evaluate its holdings.