Faced with shrinking advertising revenues, The Seattle Times Co. said Tuesday it will lay off 17 employees at its flagship newspaper and...

Share story

Faced with shrinking advertising revenues, The Seattle Times Co. said Tuesday it will lay off 17 employees at its flagship newspaper and make other cuts aimed at saving $21 million.

Vice President Jill Mackie said the newspaper also will:

• Stop publishing a Sunday tabloid news section for Southeast King County readers launched last spring.

• Consolidate some weekday and Sunday features sections.

• Reduce the newspaper’s width by 1 inch in 2009 to save on newsprint.

In addition to the layoffs, Mackie said the newspaper plans to cut 69 more jobs through attrition. Fifty-five of those positions already are unfilled, she said.

All but one of the 17 employees to be laid off work in circulation, Mackie said. Seven will be let go next month, the rest in July.

Most of the circulation employees work in home delivery, said Liz Brown, administrative officer of the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Guild, which represents most of the affected workers. She and Mackie said the company and union plan to meet to discuss severance benefits.

Brown also said a Times executive told her that 18 part-time circulation field assistants, who deliver missed papers to subscribers, would have their weekly hours reduced to 19, making them ineligible for health insurance.

Mackie would not confirm that but said a number of employees across the company will have their hours reduced.

No layoffs are scheduled in the newsroom.

“The fact The Times is not slashing its news work force shows its strong commitment to journalism,” Brown said in a blog posting. “Compared with what is happening at metro newspapers around the country, the news [Tuesday] could have been much worse.”

Newspapers across the country are slashing budgets and staffs in response to declining revenues.

In addition to the moves announced Tuesday, The Times said last month it plans to outsource its trucking operations and vehicle maintenance, eliminating up to 80 company jobs.

Speculation about budget cuts and possible layoffs had been circulating among The Times’ 1,900 workers for weeks. In a Dec. 27 e-mail to employees, Publisher Frank Blethen said print advertising revenue was down 9 percent in 2007 and had dropped more than one-quarter since 2000.

He also said $27 million in cost reductions was needed to “ensure stability” in 2008. That’s $6 million more than the cuts announced Tuesday.

Mackie said more cuts could be necessary later in the year depending on several variables, including newsprint costs and staff turnover.

The Times started the weekly Southeast King County section after the King County Journal, which had circulated in the area, shut down. The weekly is expected to stop publishing this spring.

Mackie said the section was received well by readers, but given the paper’s economic circumstances, it couldn’t be sustained until profitability.

Eric Pryne: 206-464-2231 or epryne@seattletimes.com