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Friday, June 27, 2008

AJC publisher: More cuts to come

Posted By on Fri, Jun 27, 2008 at 9:12 PM

AJC Publisher John Mellott attempted to calm the waters Thursday in an e-mail to staff members after a sister Cox family-owned paper announced big staff reductions earlier in the week. But Mellott also warned that more cuts are likely to hit the Journal-Constitution.

“The economic factors affecting our business have worsened,” Mellott wrote to the AJC staff. “The recession, the housing market downturn, as well as soaring newsprint and fuel costs have increased the urgency to reduce expenses. We will do so aggressively and in ways that make most sense for our market, our readers and our advertisers.”

Mellott’s e-mail followed an announcement that the Palm Beach Post, which along with the Atlanta paper is owned by Cox Newspapers, would reduce its workforce of 1,350 people by 300 — including a whopping 130 from the newsroom. The cuts are the latest in a slew of workforce reductions at dailies across the country.

“All Cox newspapers are carefully assessing their own markets and business models and will be taking the actions necessary to remain financially sound,” Mellott said in the e-mail.

Mellott also said a long-coming effort to reinvent the print paper, dubbed internally as “AJC 2.0” are “in the final prototyping stage.” While the daily’s brass have talked enthusiastically about “2.0,” many rank-and-file journalists are sweating what may be around the corner. They fear it will herald a new round of cuts.

One rumor is that the paper's planning to terminate several sections, including the Sunday "@issue" section. But it should be noted that that's unconfirmed. (We'll try to find out more; any AJC folks are of course welcome to feed us comments).

Last year, the Atlanta paper cut its newsroom staff by around 80 people, and the paper’s overall staff has been shrinking by attrition since then.

Cox isn't alone in its troubles. In case you didn't notice, we're seeing a depressing sea-change in the newspaper right now. Big chains are so saddled with debt that many analysts are predicting bankruptcy for some public newspaper companies, and predictions abound that some big dailies will soon stop publishing on certain money-losing days of the week.

It's no secret, by the way, that CL and other alt-weeklies, aren't immune from some of the same forces (bad economy, ad money going to the Internet, high newsprint costs) that are hitting the dailies. We do seem to be doing just a tad better, though, because our readers are younger and our free, listings-heavy content is more suited to the Internet. Plus, we've always scrounged around for money.

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