Today’s sale of the U-T today has been a long time coming. Since the end of 2006, the newspaper has gradually been trimming staff to deal with a staggering drop in advertising revenue.
As 2007 approached, so did the reality that the local newspaper was going to begin to look differently. In the first round of buyouts in December 2006, 45 veteran employees were enticed into early retirement with the promise of a year-and-a-half’s salary, as well as health care. Nineteen of those were newsroom jobs.
Months earlier, Copley Press Inc. had put up for sale seven of its Midwestern newspapers. Those papers were eventually sold, the first step the dismantling of the Copley news empire that once stretched from San Diego to Washington, D.C.
A year after the first employee buyout, the newspaper cut staff, continuing a trend that saw some of its most talented journalists walk out the door. In September 2008, it became clear the newspaper would shutter its 64-year-old Washington, D.C. bureau — which played the central role in its Pulitzer Prize-winning takedown of Duke Cunningham — by the end of the year.
When the newspaper went up for sale in July 2008 the big question was simple: Who’s going to buy a newspaper right now? Their values had been dropping exponentially and the financial model was clearly broken. Still, prospective buyers kicked the tires. In the meantime, the paper continued to slim down to make itself more attractive, even as it acknowledged a challenging sales environment and a 40 percent dip in advertising revenue since 2006.