Acting Publisher Jonathan Slevin on Wednesday announced plans for a “new” Washington Times that will focus more narrowly on its core areas of coverage while operating with a deeply reduced work force.
“We will focus on our strengths — exclusives, in-depth reporting, politics, enterprise stories, geostrategic and national news, plus cultural reporting based on traditional values,” Mr. Slevin said at a meeting of the newspaper’s editorial and support staff who were warned to expect “significant staff reductions” within 60 days.
All employees were handed letters advising them that at least 40 percent of the workforce will be laid off in the coming weeks. The cuts are necessary for the newspaper “to keep pace with the dynamically changing economics of the news business,” Mr. Slevin said.
Mr. Slevin, who also serves as acting president of The Washington Times, also said the paper would shift from its current subscription-based model to a controlled circulation model where newspapers will be distributed free of charge in key locations aimed at Washington policy- and opinion-makers.
Home delivery will continue to be available at a premium price, he said. Current subscribers will be offered the electronic edition, the national weekly edition or other options.
“The new Washington Times will continue to focus on fearless reporting, crisp editorials and traditional American values,” Mr. Slevin said. “We are a 21st-century media company, refocusing as a provider of insight in the nation’s capital. We are reshaping operations to keep pace with the news business.”
The mission of The Times, Mr. Slevin told employees, is “to provide an independent, alternative voice,” delivered on the multiple platforms of the contemporary press, including digital, print and broadcast formats.
Like many news organizations, The Times is facing a challenging financial scenario.
“I realize giving you this news before the upcoming holiday is not good timing. There is never a good time. But I thought it better to give you as much opportunity as possible to plan for whatever may come,” said Sonya R. Jenkins, vice president of human resources for The Times.
“At this point, you should consider this reduction-in-force to be permanent. Depending on the nature of the planned streamlining of our company, some employees will be retained or recalled to work,” Mrs. Jenkins said, adding that the decisions would be made after a close evaluation of staff skills and experience was completed.
Each employee also received a letter giving him a 60-day notice that he could be laid off, in compliance with the Federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, which requires employers to provide advance notice before mass layoffs.
Mr. Slevin remains optimistic about the future of The Times, and new strategies will be put in place in the next six months.
The online edition of The Times will continue, with a greater focus on breaking news and updates. The local print edition will be distributed at no cost in some key areas, and offered for normal single sales through retailers and news boxes.
The company plans to expand TheConservatives.com, its newly launched Web site that showcases op-eds, think pieces and other news of particular interest to conservatives. “America’s Morning News” — a daily national syndicated talk radio that is broadcast from a studio just steps from the Times newsroom — will also continue, and is thriving, Mr. Slevin said.
The program, also billed as “Washington Times investigational radio,” has now expanded into 70 marketplaces across the country.
Partnerships with United Press International and other news sources will also be expanded to include the sharing of content and photography, Mr. Slevin said.
“Our plan is not entirely completed. We are continuing to work on it,” he said.
The newspaper has seen much change in the past few weeks.
On Nov. 8, The Times changed the primary leadership of its business and financial operations. President and Publisher Thomas P. McDevitt, Chief Financial Officer Keith Cooperrider and Chairman Douglas D.M. Joo were formally relieved of their jobs.
Executive Editor John Solomon tendered his resignation from the company Nov. 6.
The news about news is grim everywhere. Almost 6,000 newspaper journalists lost their jobs in 2008, the biggest one-year drop in history, according to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, which has conducted annual newsroom surveys for more than three decades.
It is “the bleakest” of times, said the 2009 State of the News Media Report, released in March by the Project for Excellence in Journalism.