News-Press Lays Off 36

The leading newspaper in Southwest Florida isn't being spared the hatchet.

Carol Hudler, the publisher and president of The News-Press in Fort Myers, announced in a memo on Friday that the company was laying off 36 employees and eliminating several other currently unfilled positions (I'm hearing that number is 10). The newspaper is also killing Graceta Tropical, a weekly publication billed as the "leading Hispanic newspaper in Southwest Florida."

In her memo, Hudler cited "the worst local economy since perhaps the crash of 1929" as one of the reasons for the staff reduction at the Gannett-owned daily to "levels we had in 1995-2000." The other cited culprits: Migration to the Internet (or "digital information tools," as Hudler put it) and high newsprint and fuel prices. From the memo:

We're faced with three major forces challenging us today:

1. The worst local economy since perhaps the crash of 1929.
2. The rapid migration of both consumers and advertisers to digital information tools, made worse by misinformed predictions about how this will lead to our demise.
3. Soaring newsprint and fuel prices.

We will proactively respond to these conditions to ensure we remain strong and are best positioned for the future.

Unfortunately, part of our response involves a reduction in the size of our operation. We must shrink the number of employees back to the levels we had in 1995-2000. Our local economy has shrunk, and we must respond in kind. But even as we retract in total number, we must put more of our limited resources toward growing our digital business, both locally and nationally.

Today we implemented changes that will result in job losses for thirty-six employees and reductions in schedules and positions for others. Sadly, we're losing some good people with this workforce reduction. And we're suspending some good products that in better times would be flourishing, such as our Graceta Tropical, which will publish its last weekly issue July 25. It is all very painful, but it's necessary. We must preserve the franchise, preserve our ability to carry through with our mission, and preserve a strong future for the employees that remain.

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