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Paycut Times, Layoff Post and Furlough News

A day after the Washington Post Co. disclosed that it lost $25 million in 2008 and will offer employees buyouts to offset even more losses this year, the New York Times Co. announced that it is imposing a temporary 5% paycut for most Times employees.

The cuts is to be felt company-wide, including at the Boston Globe, a few smaller newspapers and also at About.com. The paycuts will last from April through December 2009 - unless economic conditions fails to improve, then it might be extended. The Times also said that about 100 employees on the business side of the company will be laid off.

The good news (of course, everything being relative) in the newspaper business is that only one paper - Ann Arbor News - has announced that it's shutting down since the Seattle Post-Intelligencer ceased publishing as of March 17. The Tucson Citizen, which was supposed to close up shop on March 21, is still in business as of today.

But in the first quarter this year, three newspaper companies have already filed for bankruptcy, and the rest have resorted to severe measures to cut cost, including paycuts, layoffs, buyouts and furloughs. These announcements were all made within the last 30 days:

* Hearst: San Francisco Chronicle - concessions from the guild, with about 100 employees expected to take buyouts; Houston Chronicle - 12% staff will be laid off; San Antonio Express-News - 75 newsroom positions to be cut.

* Gannett: After a mandatory unpaid one-week furlough was imposed on all employees in the first quarter, the company is repeating the measure in the second quarter, including at flagship USA Today. Some higher salaried employees may face a reduced salary for a second week.

* Newhouse: At papers such as The Star-Ledger (Newark, N.J.), The Times-Picayune (New Orleans) and The Plain Dealer (Cleveland), a 10-day furlough will be imposed and pensions are frozen.

* McClatchy: Announced that 1,600 employees, or 15% of its workforce, will be laid off and the rest will get paycuts. Particularly hard-hit is the troubled Miami Herald, with over 200 jobs being eliminated. At other papers, including the Raleigh News & Observer, Kansas City Star and Sacramento Bee, 5-10% paycuts will apply.

* MediaNews: The Denver Post employees OK'd cuts in wages and benefits. The company's other papers in the Los Angeles and San Francisco Bay metro areas might be hit with a second round of mandatory non-paid furloughs, similar to Gannett's.

Amidst all the layoffs and cuts, the Monday debut of the new print and delivery plan by the Detroit newspapers will be closely watched by everyone in the industry. The Free Press and News will be delivered just three days a week (Thursday, Friday and Sunday) and the print edition runs will be drastically reduced. This model, if successful, may be widely emulated, as newspapers continue to grasp for a way out of a seemingly irreversible death spiral.