CEO Peter Liguori told staffers in a memo today that he wants the business units at his publishing operation — which includes the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, and The Hartford Courant — to organize “by function, rather than by geography.” The goal is to “continue investing in the lifeblood of our business: best-in-class reporting, effective sales and digital growth.” But while newsrooms aren’t the primary targets for the layoffs, editorial staffs will see “selective reduction” from the drive to cut the workforce by about 6%. The changes come as Tribune plans to sell or spin off the publishing operations, and bulk up on television stations. As part of today’s announcement, L.A. Times Publisher Eddy Hartenstein and Tribune Publishing CEO Tony Hunter promised to handle the layoffs “with respect, dignity, and assistance for the future.” They also named executives to run the revamped units. The list includes Chicago Tribune’s advertising SVP Bob Fleck who’s now EVP of Advertising for Tribune Publishing, and LA TImes EVP Bill Nagel who has been named EVP of Marketing for Tribune Publishing. The company emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection at the end of 2012. Tribune says that in Q3 the publishing unit generated $44.7M in operating profit, up from $1.3M last year, on revenues of $446.4M, -3.9%.
Here’s Liguori’s memo:
Today, we are announcing an organizational and strategic transformation designed to ensure the long-term vitality of Tribune’s publishing business. Our top priority every day is delivering outstanding journalism to our readers and great value to our advertisers, while running our business to proactively address the secular realities of the publishing industry.
To move forward productively, we must explore innovative ways to more efficiently operate our business. Specifically, we must take better advantage of Tribune’s unique size and reach. To that end, we have decided to unify the non-editorial functions of our publishing businesses.
Aligning the non-editorial areas of our business units by function, rather than by geography, will allow us to better share best-practices, create efficiencies and maintain our local focus. This will enable us, in turn, to continue investing in the lifeblood of our business: best-in-class reporting, effective sales and digital growth.
Going forward, it is especially important that we invest more concertedly in our digital areas so we can get ahead of the quickly evolving, digital needs of our readers. We have appointed Bill Adee to lead a new team of people charged with authoring Tribune Publishing’s digital future. Later today, Eddy Hartenstein and Tony Hunter will announce the appointments of leaders in other key publishing areas such as advertising, marketing, manufacturing and distribution, and human resources.
Our long-time, local publishers and editors will continue leading their publishing businesses and newsrooms. This new structure will afford our publishers, editors and their staffs greater opportunity to focus on what they do best– servicing their local readers, advertisers and communities.
Creating these critical efficiencies and ensuring the long-term strength of our mastheads will, unfortunately, result in the selective reduction of our publishing staff. It is always difficult to part with valued colleagues, particularly those at Tribune who have unwaveringly served our publishing businesses over the years. On behalf of the entire company, I thank them for their dedication, hard work and contributions.
I also want to thank the dozens of people across the company who have worked diligently with Eddy and Tony during the last several months to meticulously design Tribune Publishing’s new operating structure. I am confident that the functionally-driven organization we are announcing today will provide our publishing businesses with the focused leadership, resources and expertise they require to successfully navigate the challenges ahead while continuing to produce the best printed and digital news products in the country.