Newspaper Roundup: AP Members Grouse; McClatchy Offers Buyouts; Toronto Star Lays Off Internet Staff

This story was written by David Kaplan.
-- AP: Newspaper editors let loose a barrage of criticism for the new Associated Press rate structure after an appearance by AP President and CEO Tom Curley at the American Society of Newspaper Editors' conference in Washington, D.C. Editors have reacted bitterly to the higher rates associated with next year's Member Choice plan, which will give members access to all breaking news, regardless of location or category, to the service's subscriber papers. Attendees' ire was also raised over recent comments from AP officials who say newspapers make up less than 30 percent of the organization's revenue, since they are still the single largest group of AP customers. Martin Baron, editor of The Boston Globe tells Curley: "You need to cut our rates 30 percent. If you want to do that, that would make us happy."

-- McClatchy: Employee buyouts by newspaper companies struggling with the economy and the industry's structural problems stemming from the shift away from print to online. The NYT has been trying the buyout route before heading to layoffs. Now, McClatchy's (NYSE: MNI) Modesto Bee is offering over 100 of its 455 staffers a buyout offer. Mark Vasch, the California-based Bee's editor and SVP, said the buyouts will affect a "very small" number of the newsroom's 90-plus employees.

-- Toronto Star: Torstar Corp. is shedding 160 jobsincluding the entire internet production staff of 10-- and taking a $21 million charge in a restructuring of its newspaper division. The Canadian company, which owns The Toronto Star several other Ontario papers, cited continuing weakness in the newspaper industry. TheStar.com:  The job cuts were a mix of "voluntary and involuntary staff reductions," which Torstar says will save the company $12 million. The Star was able to avoid a strike back in January. Last fall, it shuttered its e-newspaper after a year to in order to exercise greater focus on its online and mobile websites. Canadian Press: "Most of the job cuts, taken through severance packages, were already expected, but laying off the 10-person Internet staff came as a surprise, said Maureen Dawson, an official with the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada. "Their message to the world is that they're all dedicated to the Internet, but then they lay off the whole department."


By David Kaplan