Mountain Xpress feels the pinch

Mountain Xpress employees will see an across-the-board pay cut of 5 to 10 percent effective Jan. 1, owner and publisher Jeff Fobes announced Dec. 19.

The Asheville-based weekly has seen a recent decline in both classified and retail advertising, Fobes said. The corresponding decline in revenue, which is likely to extend into 2009, has forced Xpress to look at a variety of cost-cutting measures, he added.

“Our strategy is to share the pain, so we’re instituting a companywide pay cut,” noted Fobes. “Everyone feels the pain; everyone should have input into what must be an evolving response to the economy.”

The national economy, hit hard by a mortgage crisis and a credit crunch, has exacerbated the pressures felt by newspapers struggling to find successful new business models on the Internet. Newspapers across the U.S. have laid off thousands of workers, scaled back print editions and scrambled to deal with sharp drops in advertising revenues.

The 14-year-old Xpress circulates some 29,000 free copies in and around Asheville each week and employs 38 people. The newspaper, which produces such popular local guides as the WNC Green Building Directory and Asheville Eats & Drinks, is available online at www.mountainx.com. Earlier this year, Xpress announced that it would keep its retail advertising rates unchanged for the third straight year.

Still, Fobes says he’s optimistic about the newspaper’s future. “We have a strong team at Xpress, and I think this challenge is about to make us stronger,” he maintains. “Because of our local focus, I believe we’re integral to the evolution and growth of the Asheville area. The plan is to stay that way—promoting the local dialogue and helping local merchants get the word out about the unique and creative things they’re doing.”

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