Seattle Times to lay off 110

The Seattle Times Co. will cut up to 110 full-time positions as part of the newspaper’s effort to become profitable again within two years.

Employees affected by the permanent layoffs will be notified in the coming weeks, said Kerry Coughlin, spokeswoman for the company.

“Our plan is to do that by mid-February,” Couglin said. “We realize people here are very anxious about what will happen.”

Carolyn Kelly, Seattle Times Co.’s president, told employees in a memo Thursday that between 90 and 110 positions will be cut among full-time employees. That doesn’t include reductions planned among part-time workers or open positions that may go unfilled.

Other specifics about the layoffs, were not released. Coughlin said no final decisions have been made about where the cuts will be made.

Overall, the Seattle Times employs about 1,500 people full time. Of that, more than 700 belong to the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Guild.

While union-represented employees usually are laid off in order of seniority, with the newest employees being cut first, the Times is trying to negotiate more flexibility. In return, the Times is offering to pay severance compensation to laid-off workers, which isn’t required in the union contract.

Liz Brown, the newspaper guild’s administrative officer, met with the Times on Friday to further discuss the issue. After the meeting, she declined to comment on the talks or the impending layoffs.

In December, the Times also decided to reduce by 18 percent the space devoted to news in each day’s paper, with those cuts targeted at the sports, entertainment, wine, outdoors and travel sections.

The newspaper also is cutting back on corporate sponsorships and charitable giving, outsourcing incoming calls from subscribers to a call center and suspending the company’s matching payments to nonunion workers’ 401(k) retirement plans.

Still unknown is whether the newly announced layoffs will affect the Times’ Snohomish County bureau in Lynnwood, which reopened in fall 2002.

The Times lost a record $12 million in 2004, its fifth consecutive loss. Officials haven’t revealed how much the larger Times Co., which also owns other newspapers, lost last year.

The newspaper has blamed the combination of a strike against the Times in late 2000 and early 2001 and a downturn in advertising since then as the cause of its financial problems.

The Times – owned by the Blethen family, with a 49.5 percent share held by the Knight Ridder newspaper chain – also is fighting to end its joint operating agreement with The Hearst Co., which owns the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Under the agreement, the Times handles printing, distribution and advertising at both papers in exchange for a greater share of their joint revenues.

But the Times says the agreement is an impediment to its own profitability. The state Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments in the case Feb. 15.

Reporter Eric Fetters: 425-339-3453 or fetters@heraldnet.com.

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