The Asheville Citizen-Times introduced a dramatically slimmed-down product on Jan. 5. The move was forced by the bad economy, said Publisher Randy Hammer. In an explanation printed on the daily newspaper’s front page, Hammer enumerated the changes:
• Hour-earlier daily deadlines were set to accommodate printing the paper at The Greenville News in Greenville, S.C. The Citizen-Times shut down its printing press Jan. 4, eliminating 60 jobs. Several employees have accepted jobs at the Greenville paper; both are owned by Gannett Co., which also publishes USA Today.
• Classified advertising has been cut from the Monday and Tuesday editions.
• The opinion pages will move into the paper’s A section on Sundays, and the Forum section will be cut.
• The newspaper is moving from four sections to three on some days. The Jan. 5 edition contained three sections and 20 pages, with the Living section appearing inside the Mountains section. There was no business news, but other features, such as comics and the crossword, remained.
Hammer didn’t specify which days of the week the newspaper would be trimmed to three sections, nor did he note that the paper has moved to a narrower width.
Citing last year’s decline in real-estate sales, soaring gas prices and a slowdown in tourism and retail sales, Hammer said the economic crunch has forced businesses to scale back on advertising, and “Fewer ads leave us with fewer pages for news and features.”
“Gannett Blog,” written by former Gannett Co. reporter and editor Jim Hopkins, reported earlier this year that the company’s third-quarter revenues had dropped precipitously. For the quarter, Gannett reported net income of $158 million, or 69 cents a share, on revenue of $1.64 billion—down from $234 million, or $1.01 per share, a year ago, according to Hopkins, who worked for USA Today. Gannett continues to post profits, though, and the Citizen-Times remained quite profitable through most of 2007, according to the blog.
Newspaper companies across the U.S. are cutting back on expenses and laying off employees as they struggle with an unraveling economy and uneasiness over the future of newspapers in the Internet age. In just two examples, The Christian Science Monitor announced last year that it was doing away with its print edition altogether and going online-only, while Detroit’s two daily newspapers drastically scaled back home delivery.
In his column, Hammer said last year’s layoffs by the Gannett Co., the nation’s largest newspaper chain, cut some 2,500 jobs around the country, including about 20 at the Citizen-Times (plus the 60 jobs eliminated at the printing plant). The cuts are especially difficult, he noted, because they come as the paper has seen an increase in the number of people in the Asheville metro area who read it or visit the Web site.
“We would have preferred to keep things they way they were,” the publisher wrote. “But times have changed.”