Even as the local economy shows signs of life, newsroom employees at The San Diego Union-Tribune are bracing for more cuts.

Editor Jeff Light, who came to the newspaper in March, told employees in a May 21 internal memo about steps leading up to a pending reorganization.

“Yes, the newsroom budget will be smaller,” he wrote, “and no, I am not authorized to share details.”

Other departments of the paper have already been trimmed this month. A newsroom employee who spoke on condition of anonymity said there have been a small number of layoffs in the human resources, packaging and advertising departments.

It’s not clear how many jobs will be cut in the newsroom. Light told the staff he plans to complete his decision-making by mid-June. He told us earlier this month that the newspaper didn’t have a big layoff planned.

In his memo, he listed the newsroom leadership jobs that will be available and asked employees to answer this question: “Who at the U-T inspires me to do my best work?”

He said lower-paid jobs should be open to higher-paid people, “if it comes to that. If no fit is found, the company will handle all of that in the usual way.”

In an interview via email Thursday, Light declined to answer questions about reports within the newsroom that the copy desk (which helps shepherd stories into the paper) will shrink and less-experienced reporters will be hired.

“Without going into details, it’s fair to say that the mix of roles in our newsroom and the workflows absolutely will be different,” he said.

Job cuts aren’t unusual at American newspapers, which have slashed their staffs over the past four years as the economy declined and readers canceled subscriptions. The Union-Tribune cut at least half of its workforce.

Newspaper layoffs have been fairly rare this year as the economy has perked up and circulation declines have slowed. Unlike many of its struggling counterparts nationally, the U-T saw its circulation grow a tiny bit in the six-month period ending on March 31 of this year.

A newsroom employee who spoke on condition of anonymity said staffers were waiting for the cuts. “People are having sleepless nights,” the employee said. “There are people going around with that dead-man-walking look.”


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