October 6, 2008 - 1:27PM
Tribune announces major cutbacks; 4-day paper
Ed Taylor, Tribune
The Tribune announced a major shift in strategy Monday in which the newspaper will withdraw coverage and distribution from Scottsdale and Tempe to concentrate on Mesa, Gilbert and other parts of the East Valley.
Buffeted by an unprecedented downturn in the newspaper industry, Tribune Publisher Julie Moreno said the Tribune will move to four-day-a-week free distribution in the cities it will continue to serve — Mesa, Chandler, Gilbert and Queen Creek. The number of papers distributed in those cities will be increased as it is eliminated in Tempe and Scottsdale, she said.
The newspaper also will provide coverage of news in those communities seven days a week in its online edition, she said.
In line with the service cutback, the paper will cut 142 jobs — about 40 percent of its overall staff.
Severance packages will be offered to employees whose jobs are eliminated, Moreno said.
Among those who will be leaving the Tribune in January is Jim Ripley, executive editor.
Ripley said he is retiring after 16 years at the Tribune and 37 years in newspapers.
Ripley said his decision was amicable and that he fully supports Moreno and the Tribune’s new direction.
The newspaper, owned by Irvine, Calif.-based Freedom Communications, has suffered a steep drop in revenue in the past year and has not been able to trim costs fast enough to offset that drop despite three rounds of layoffs, Moreno said.
Similar revenue declines have been reported by newspapers across the country as advertisers retrench and Americans obtain more of their information from the Internet.
Monday’s actions are necessary if the Tribune is to remain a part of the East Valley, Moreno said.
“We must turn the boat while we have the opportunity to do that. ... We have to position the Tribune to be part of the community for the long term,” she told a meeting of Tribune employees Monday.
Moreno said the Tribune will focus on Mesa/Chandler/Gilbert/Queen Creek because those areas are growing and the newspaper has wider readership there.
“We do have a strong following in Mesa and from a geographic standpoint, (distribution in the other three cities) complements our footprint,” she said.
Moreno said articles from the Scottsdale edition were well-read on the Internet, but “it is not an effective business model” to continue to operate in that city.
The new plan will not affect other Arizona newspapers owned by Freedom Communications, which include the Sun City Daily News Sun and the Ahwatukee Foothills News.
The last Tribune editions to be published under the current model will be on Sunday, Jan. 4, and the first newspapers under the new plan will appear on Wednesday, Jan. 7.
The new print edition will have two sections — one for local news and a second for sports, entertainment and late-breaking news. Both sections will be tabloid-sized, and the front page of the newspaper will look similar to its current layout. Zoned editions are planned for each of the four communities.
The Get Out entertainment magazine will be absorbed into the second section, Moreno said.
The print edition probably will appear on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, Moreno said. Distribution will be through morning driveway deliveries and newspaper racks, she said.
She said the newspaper will continue to practice high-quality journalism in the communities it serves.
“We are not giving up on investigative and enterprise journalism,” she said.