- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 17, 2001

Dow Jones, Knight Ridder, ABC, CNN and the Tribune Co. are a few names in a seemingly endless list of media companies laying off employees this year for the first time since the 1991 recession.
"Before 1991, layoffs were not something newspaper companies did ordinarily. There just haven't been any layoffs except for this year," said John Mortin, president of Mortin Researching and a columnist for the American Journalism Review.
Mr. Mortin believes the layoffs can be linked to a 5 percent drop this year in the average profit margin for publicly owned newspapers.
He attributed the drop to higher newsprint costs and losses in advertising with the downturn of the economy.
"In the first quarter of this year, a sharp downturn in help-wanted, classified ads and some softness in retail ads occurred, while at the same time newsprint costs were 15 to 20 percent higher. So, in effect, the higher cost and weaker ad revenue put pressure on profit margin," Mr. Mortin said.
The Dow Jones Co. announced 162 layoffs at the end of its second quarter. Earlier this year, the company eliminated another 429 positions, 387 of which were layoffs. Of those, 16 editorial staff members were let go at the Wall Street Journal.
Steve Goldstein, Dow Jones vice president for corporate communications, said the layoffs were a response to a steady loss in advertising and an effort to keep up with Wall Street expectations.
"In today's economy, we have no choice but to cut costs in addition to other changes," Mr. Goldstein said, and Dow Jones aims to reduce costs by $150 million this fiscal year.
"I think Dow Jones has the same economic climate that every media company does," said Mr. Goldstein. "We hope that the economy will improve and it won't be necessary to lay off any more employees in the future."
Last month, Knight Ridder reported it was trimming at least 1,700 positions nationwide. The New York Times Co. eliminated at least 9 percent of its work force, laying off 1,200 employees as of June. The Tribune Co. contributed to the cutbacks, downsizing its work force by 1,400 positions by June.
Knight Ridder, the nation's second-largest publishing company, gained national attention when Jay Harris, publisher of the San Jose Mercury News, announced in March that he was resigning to protest the layoffs of 120 employees.
The Akron Beacon Journal recently laid off 65 staff members. The paper also tried to slash costs by eliminating its Sunday magazine and condensing its daily news sections.
Media analysts say cuts might hurt more than help the newspaper industry in the long run, reducing quality and alienating readers.
Mr. Mortin believes the worst of the cutbacks may be over, although he doubted many media companies would be hiring in the near future.
"Do I think they'll start hiring people back? No, I don't. I think until advertising starts coming back, they won't be hiring anyone."

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