Employees at the Portland Press Herald got the grim news in the company newsletter late last week. Advertising revenue continues to decline. Energy and health-care costs keep increasing. And cuts in spending in such areas as newsprint, travel and office supplies won't make up the difference.
"Unfortunately, it has been determined that we will also need to eliminate a significant number of positions in
an effort to bring expenses more in-line with revenues that are available to us," the newsletter said. "While details are still being worked out, a reduction in workforce is expected to occur effective July 1."
According to union sources at Local 128 of the Newspaper Guild, the layoffs will eliminate 35 positions (an official announcement could come as early as today), making this the biggest round of staff cuts in the recent history of the Blethen Maine Newspapers, owner of the Press Herald, Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel dailies. In April, Blethen cut five full-time and four part-time jobs at the KJ and Sentinel. Last August, eight positions, four full-time and four part-time got the ax at the Portland paper.
Meanwhile, the union has apparently given up its bid to buy the newspapers. According to the Seattle-based Web site Crosscut.com, Blethen executives have narrowed the field of potential purchasers of their Maine assets to three
, but the Guild isn't among them. Crosscut said about 10 entities took a serious look at buying the papers, but only three have signed the nondisclosure agreement Blethen required before opening its books to possible buyers.
Crosscut also reported that Black Press, Canada's largest private newspaper company, was a likely bidder. Black is based in Victoria, British Columbia and owns more than 100 papers in Canada and the United States, including several in Washington state, as well as the Akron Beacon Journal and the Honolulu Star-Bulletin.
David Black, the company's owner and president, refused to discuss a possible purchase of the Maine papers, telling Crosscut,
"If one is going down that road, and I'm not saying we are, you sign a non-disclosure agreement that prohibits talking about this sort of thing."
(Props to the Web site Portland Press Harried for alerting me to the Crosscut scoop.)
Al Diamon can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org .