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Media General Offers Wide Buyouts In Its 'Crown Jewel' Tampa Market; Move Attributed To Convergence

This story was written by Joseph Weisenthal.

Media General (NYSE: MEG) has offered buyouts to half of its 1,326 Tampa Bay-based employees, just weeks after calling the Tampa market its "crown jewel." Florida Communications Group president John Schueler told Eric Deggans, the media critic at rival St. Petersburg Times the offer is part of a realignment due to "convergence" across platforms. For example, Denise Palmer, president and publisher of the Tampa Tribune, Denise Palmer, is now responsible for content across all the FCG platforms. Mike Pumo, president and GM of WFLA, is now responsible for revenues across all platforms, and operations at all platforms will be centralized under a single vice president.

The offer, based on time with the company, cuts across all platforms and properties: the Tribune and portal, WFLA, Spanish-language CENTRO, and smaller papers including Hernando Today, Sunbelt Newspapers and others dailies and weeklies. It's not clear how many employees actually will get buyouts, though the notice includes the usual warning that layoffs may occur if enough employees don't accept the offer. Also, some positions are excluded.

The report comes just a few days after Media General called the Tampa market its "crown jewel" in a proxy filing relating to its ongoing spat with activist investor Harbinger.

Staci adds: As Eric notes, it also dovetails with today's announcement of a 2007 Sigma Delta Chi award in deadline reporting, online, "given to the staffs of, WFLA and the Tampa Tribune for their joint 'converged' reporting on storms in central Florida."

By Joseph Weisenthal

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