The St. Pete Times Joins the Ranks and Plans for Layoffs

Even the most idyllic ownership models for newspapers can’t stop the wave of change looming ahead. The St. Petersburg Times will layoff 80 – 90 employees—a step it has managed to avoid until now.

A recent article on summarizes the ownership history of the St. Petersburg Times and opinion writer Louis Hau outlines how the changing newspaper market is catching up with the Times.

The St. Petersburg Times is perhaps the finest daily newspaper south of The Washington Post and east of The Dallas Morning News. It is also an invaluable corporate citizen in the Tampa Bay, Fla., area, both as the region's leading news source and as a sponsor of many worthy cultural and civic institutions. But there's one thing that the Times, my former employer, probably isn't: a practical model to be emulated by a newspaper industry desperate for a new game plan.

The Times is owned by the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, a non-profit organization “dedicated to teaching and inspiring journalists and media leaders. It promotes excellence and integrity in the practice of craft and in the practical leadership of successful businesses.” The ownership model allowed the Times to theoretically avoid the corporate bean counters, that the author implies are quick to slash jobs. The Institute gained control of the Times because the former owner, Nelson Poynter, actually gave away his controlling shares to the institute that would later bear his name.

Unfortunately, having a non-profit organization control a for-profit company did not save the St. Pete Times from the same fate as other newspapers. In a recent company newsletter, the current leadership announced they were cutting jobs.

As a result, the paper plans to eliminate 80 to 90 jobs companywide by the end of 2007, mostly through attrition. Some of those cuts will come from the newsroom, which is already more than 15 jobs over budget. Hiring from outside the company will become “very rare.”

This serves as another example of how the newspaper industry will continue to face layoffs and difficult decisions until they can find a way to embrace the changes and fundamentally alter their business model.

Anonymous (not verified) @ December 14, 2006 - 1:23pm

Too bad but I can't say that I didn't see it coming.

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