News Cycle

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Hartford Courant Lays Off 100 in Mardi Gras Massacre

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Hartford Courant Publisher Stephen D. Carver announced today that the Tribune Co. newspaper will lay off about 100 people as it faces declining advertising revenues.

An announcement posted on its website today said that the cuts include about 30 employees in news, bringing the news staff to 135 — just over half the number The Courant had at the start of 2008. Most employees were being notified this week, according to Carver.

The layoffs are mostly at The Courant but also at subsidiaries New Mass Media, which comprises the chain of Advocate weeklies, and Valu Mail, the direct-mail business owned by The Courant.

Chicago-based Tribune Co. is operating under bankruptcy protection as a result the media company’s $13 billion in debt, most of which Tribune took on late in 2007 when it became a private business. Tribune had a series of layoffs in 2008, but the current round of cuts at The Courant was forced by business conditions here, Carver said, rather than the bankruptcy.

Company-wide, Tribune is in a wage freeze announced to employees earlier this month. News space, which was cut back last summer, will remain as it is, Carver said. The Courant remains the largest news organization covering Connecticut.

“I wanted to get us into an environment where we could focus on our readers and advertisers going forward, and focus on growing the business,” Carver said. “We’re going to perform at the level we’ve been performing.”

Paul Bass of the New Haven Independent had more details than the Courant story:

Connecticut’s “oldest continually published daily newspaper” (for now) axed its D.C. bureau, half of its remaining two-person state Capitol staff, and its environmental reporter as part of what one veteran dubbed “The Mardi Gras Massacre.”

Those were among the casualties of the latest wave of layoffs at the Hartford Courant.

Mark Pazniokas, one of two reporters based at the state Capitol, has worked at the paper for 24 years and was its senior political correspondent. Dave Funkhouser held down the environmental beat.

Jesse Hamilton was the last reporter based in the paper’s D.C. bureau.

They and other reporters were notified of their layoffs in phone calls Tuesday night. They will receive one week’s severance for every year worked, plus an extra week.

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Written by newscycle

February 25, 2009 at 4:49 pm

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