Layoffs Hit Union-Tribune Newsroom

Layoffs Hit Union-Tribune Newsroom

Will Parson

Jeff Light

About 35 newsroom employees were laid off at The San Diego Union-Tribune on Thursday, the seventh round of job cuts in the last four years and the first under the newspaper’s new editor.

The layoffs, part of a planned reorganization, included familiar bylines: nationally syndicated columnist Ruben Navarrette and veteran reporters such as Anne Krueger (East County), Jeff Ristine (Just Fix It), Leslie Berestein (the U.S.-Mexico border), Michael Burge (North County) and John Marelius (politics).

It continues the slimming of the newspaper, which since late 2006 has cut more than half its staff to combat sagging advertising revenues.

The difference this time: The changes are being articulated as part of a new, refocused vision for the newspaper. The Union-Tribune is simultaneously hiring, recruiting new leaders and offering entry-level reporting jobs. Some reporters laid off Thursday have the option of taking one of those jobs — dubbed a junior staff writer, which pays about $35,000 annually — or a six months’ salary severance.

In a note to readers, Editor Jeff Light described the reorganization as the beginning of the newspaper’s changes.

“The benefits will not be immediately apparent,” he wrote. “But by summer’s end, you will see a different U-T both in print and online.”

That overhaul includes an expanded seven-member watchdog team, a greater business focus, the return of former metro columnist Tom Blair and a newspaper redesign. Light said the paper would reshape its opinion page and focus more people on reporting.

“So,” he wrote, “our plans do not call for less of the same. We plan to do things differently.”

Other confirmed laid-off employees included:

Leonel Sanchez, reporter

Tovin Lapan, reporter

Ozzie Roberts, reporter

Bruce Lieberman, reporter

Jeff Dillon, SignOnSanDiego.com

Robert Pincus, critic

David Gaddis Smith, foreign editor

Steve Adamek, copy editor

Martin Zimmerman, copy editor

Derrik Chinn, content producer

Marcia Manna, community news writer

Leana DeKock, sports desk

Correction: Marcia Manna’s title was incorrect in the original version of this post. It has since been updated. We regret the mistake.

– ROB DAVIS and RANDY DOTINGA

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