Further proof that the big city daily newspaper business is suffering in the wake of growing Internet use, the San Diego Union-Tribune is offering buyout options to 67 of its most longtime employees.
The paper, owned by La Jolla’s Copley Press Inc., confirmed Nov. 1 that employees with 30-plus years of service have the next 45 days to decide whether to participate in a voluntary retirement incentive program.
The U-T’s weekday circulation has dropped more than 3 percentage points in the six-month period ending in September; so did rates at every other major daily in the state.
In the same six-month period preceding September 2005, the U-T dropped 6.24 percent on weekdays and 3.98 percent on Sundays.
“As we all know, this is a challenging period in the newspaper industry,” said U-T spokesman Drew Schlosberg. “The Union-Tribune has undertaken steps to control costs, and the voluntary retirement incentive program is part of this effort.”
Meanwhile, Copley is exploring the possible sale or merger of seven daily newspapers it owns in Illinois and Ohio.
In a prepared statement, Chief Executive Officer David C. Copley said the company plans to retain ownership of its flagship Union-Tribune for “many years into the future.”
The retirement program offered to U-T employees consists of 18 months of base pay and up to one year of paid medical, dental and vision insurance.
In addition to its daily newspaper operations, Copley owns the Copley News Service, a wire service based in San Diego with bureaus in Washington, D.C., Sacramento, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Illinois and Ohio. With the decision to possibly sell Illinois and Ohio papers, it’s unclear what would become of the service.
“We haven’t made any decisions,” said Harold W. Fuson Jr., senior vice president and chief legal officer for Copley Press.
A New York-based investment and consulting firm, Evercore Partners has been hired to help evaluate options. Evercore has already been helping Copley with the sale of the company’s paper in Torrance.