Citizen-Times dramatically revamps print product

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.”


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One thought on “Citizen-Times dramatically revamps print product

  1. Greg Sills

    In today’s Wall Street Journal, 1/14, 09, Gannett Co. reports a plan to furlough its non-unionized U.S. employees for a week this fiscal quarter. Unionized workers are being asked to agree to do likewise. Overall, Gannett has more than 31,000 employees. CEO Dubow said via email:
    “We are doing this to preserve our operations …while confronting the issues raised by some of the most difficult economic conditions we have ever experienced.”
    Unreported is how much money the newspaper chain expects to save.
    Remember how America’s journalists salivated over reporting on the lack of anticipation and/or lack of courage on the part of short-sighted people in banking, oil & gas, and politics, to candidly disclose, and not in bits and pieces, the calamities unfolding in their firms or sectors; to spill their beans including painting the big picture? So now the tables are turned on print media pros and what have we seen, locally, so far?
    1. An ACT that not only under-reported the looming severity of the bursting of the real estate speculation bubble in 2007 & 08, but also failed to anticipate how its popping threatened the sustainability of real estate ad revenues and thus the sustainability of their news business model. If the ACT was our Fire Dept., it would be as if the firemen woke up to a 2-alarm fire next door and ‘discovered’ they had used flammable materials to construct the roof of their own fire house and also absent-mindedly stored fire accelerants in the decorative plant containers used for creative landscaping.
    2. An ACT that fumbled months of opportunities to run more sophisticated feeds from better trained financial writers at Reuters, and to carry financial insights from the burgeoning talents in finance blogdom such as Calculated Risk and Mish’s Global Economic Trend Analysis. Both renowned blogs provided data, quantitative analysis and insight on the fallacy of numerous ‘immunity myths’ and the rate of collapse of numerous feeder markets in Florida, East Coast metros, and other locales of would-be-buyers, targeted by the local board of realtors, that fed our metro’s speculation boom. Even the NYT’s Paul Krugman and NPR would periodically cite Calculated Risk and other esteemed finance bloggers.
    3. A Gannett Co. that’s equally flat-footed. Was ACT’s corporate parent also slavishly beholden to national ad-purchasing interests? Did they also drink too deeply from the gilded jug of ‘talking head’ denial-ers of a deep and brutish recession and a downturn in ad general spending, following in the footsteps of the bursting bubbles?
    Mountain Xpress, can you learn from points #1-3?
    Which of your reporters and editors are educating themselves on this evolving global financial crisis? Have you staffers who can, say, explore how Gannett’s furloughing of their workforce, ACT’s cut-backs, and the city’s looming budget shortfall, all support a key economic phenomenon that blogger Mish has been warning his reader’s about all last year? (hint: it is the opposite of inflation).
    I hope you do. I hope to see some of the passion & brainpower shown on ‘Green’ issues re-directed to less glamorous but equally critical economic matters. Otherwise, we’ll soon be reading Mountain Xpress as web-only postings uploaded by a passionate all-volunteer staff.

    Remember: voluntary financial ignorance and economic illiteracy are not tools for ‘saving the earth’.

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