The Asheville Citizen-Times on Monday introduced a slimmed-down version of the daily newspaper, a move forced by the bad economy, according to Publisher Randy Hammer. In a front-page explanation, Hammer enumerates the changes to the newspaper:
• Hour-earlier daily deadlines required by having the newspaper printed in Greenville, S.C. The Citizen-Times on Sunday shut down its printing press, eliminating 60 jobs. Several employees have accepted jobs at the Greenville News.
• The classified advertising section of the newspaper has been cut from the newspaper on Mondays and Tuesdays.
• Opinion pages move into the A section of the newspaper on Sundays, and the Forum section will be cut.
• The newspaper is moving from four sections to three sections on some days. Monday’s newspaper was a three-section, 20-page newspaper, with the Living section appearing as a page inside the Mountains section. There was no business news, but other features, such as comics and the crossword, remained.
Hammer does not specify what days of the week the newspaper will be reduced to three sections. His column also does not note that the newspaper has moved to a narrower width starting Monday.
Citing last year’s decline in real-estate sales, soaring gas prices and a slow-down in tourism and retail sales, Hammer said the economic crunch has forced businesses to scale back advertising, which required the newspaper to cut back. “Fewer ads leave us with fewer pages for news and features,” Hammer wrote.
Gannett Blog, written by former Gannett Co. reporter and editor Jim Hopkins, who worked for USA Today, reported earlier this year that Gannett’s third quarter revenues 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 before, according to Hopkins. Gannett continues to post profits, though, and the Citizen-Times remained quite profitable through most of 2007, according to Gannett Blog.
Newspaper companies around the U.S. are cutting back on the expenses and laying off employees as they struggle with the economic times 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 print altogether and going online-only, while Detroit’s two newspapers drastically scaled back home delivery.
In his column, Hammer says last year’s lay-offs by the Gannett Co., the corporate parent of the Citizen-Times and the nation’s largest newspaper owner, cut some 2,500 jobs around the country, including a total of about 20 at the Citizen-Times (not including the 60 jobs eliminated at the printing plant). The cuts are especially difficult because they come as the newspaper has seen an increase in the number of people in the Asheville metro area who read it and view the newspaper’s Web site, according to Hammer.
“We would have preferred to keep things they way they were,” the publisher wrote. “But times have changed.”
— Jason Sandford, multimedia editor