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Union-Tribune Dismisses 3 Web Site Executives

The San Diego Union-Tribune axed at least one of its Web site executives and has frozen top management’s salaries, according to an internal memo dated May 7 that was sent to staff members from Gene Bell, the publication’s president and chief executive officer.

The publication’s spokesman, Drew Schlosberg, did not return phone calls seeking comment for this story by last week’s deadline.

But according to the memo, Chris Jennewein, who headed the paper’s Web site, SignOnSanDiego.com, as vice president of Internet operations, was let go and sources have said that two other key executives of the online department, Content Manager Ron James and Business Development Director Jim Drummond, were also axed.

Jennewein, James and Drummond could not be reached for comment.

Jennewein, who formerly headed Knight Ridder Digital, which operates a network of media Web sites, was hired by the Union-Tribune as director of its Internet operations, according to an announcement it made in August 2001. His background included several years of experience in online and Internet production as well as reporting.

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Consolidated Missions

The recent memo stated that certain tasks or “missions” would be consolidated, including those of Mark Davis, vice president of strategy, who would be responsible for “strategy, product development and Internet sites.” Bill Nagel, the paper’s vice president of circulation and consumer marketing, was named senior vice president of business channels, which includes “the responsibility for growing audience and revenue,” the memo stated.

It also said that there would be a wage freeze for senior management for a one-year period effective May 1.

“As business recovers and we are able to project with more confidence the longer-term course of our revenues, we will take steps to make sure our compensation packages remain competitive,” Bell said in the memo.


Circulation Declines

According to a recent biannual report by the Audit Bureau of Circulations, Monday through Friday circulation at the Union-Tribune was down 2.59 percent to 288,669 as of March 31, compared with 296,331 on the same date in 2007, while Sunday circulation fell 6.12 percent to 355,537 from 378,696.

In its report for Sept. 30, ABC showed that the Union-Tribune’s Monday through Friday circulation had dropped 8.5 percent to 278,379 from the same day in 2006, and that Sunday circulation was off 8 percent to 359,355. Circulation for its Enlace Spanish-language publication was not counted in the ABC reports because it is a free weekly that is distributed in the county’s Hispanic communities and in Tijuana. Neither was that of Today’s Local News, a free paper distributed Wednesday and Sunday in North County.

Meanwhile, the Union-Tribune has been paring its staff. In the winter of 2006, it offered early retirement packages, and 48 veteran employees, including 19 in the newsroom, accepted the offer. In January, a buyout offer was accepted by 76 employees, including 11 reporters. The paper’s newsroom staff currently numbers about 300.

Within the last two years, The Copley Press Inc., a La Jolla-based business and the U-T’s parent company, sold nine of its newspapers, seven dailies and two weeklies in Illinois and Ohio, for $380 million to Fairport, N.Y.-based GateHouse Media Inc. The Daily Breeze of Torrance, also a Copley paper, was also sold for an undisclosed price to the Hearst Corp. in collaboration with MediaNews Group of Denver.

The publication does not release revenue figures. However, the most recent revenue estimate available from BIA Financial Network Inc., released in the summer of 2007, showed that the Union-Tribune had total revenue, including advertising and circulation, of $386.7 million in 2006, down from an estimate of $400.5 million the year before.

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