Tribune Company newspapers like The Los Angeles Times and The Chicago Tribune will quickly cut costs – by printing fewer papers and employing fewer journalists – top company executives said on Thursday.
Samuel Zell, the chairman and chief executive of Tribune, and Randy Michaels, the company’s chief operating officer, revealed the cuts during a conference call with Wall Street analysts.
They also said the struggling company has looked at the column inches of news produced by each reporter, and by each paper’s news staff. Finding wide variation, they said, they have concluded that it could do without a large number of news employees and not lose much content.
Mr. Michaels said of the changes, “This is going to happen quickly.”
Mr. Zell said, “I promise you he’s underestimating the level of aggressiveness with which we are attacking this whole challenge.”
They said the company would aim for a 50-50 split between ads and news across all the news pages (excluding classified ads and advertising supplements). Mr. Michaels said this would mean eliminating 500 pages of news a week across all of the company’s 12 papers.
“If we take, for instance, The Los Angeles Times to a 50-50 ratio, we will be eliminating about 82 pages a week,” Mr. Michaels said, leaving the smallest papers of the week at 56 news pages.
Since being taken over in an $8.2 billion deal that took the company private in December, Tribune has downsized newspapers that had already been trimmed under the previous regime. During the call and in a note from Mr. Zell to Tribune employees, the executives signaled that bigger cuts are coming.
Mr. Michaels said that, after measuring journalists’ output, “when you get into the individuals, you find out that you can eliminate a fair number of people while eliminating not very much content.” He added that he understood that some reporting jobs naturally produce less output than others.