GCI girds for ’09 newspaper job losses in ‘low teens’

CEO Craig Dubow told a Wall Street media conference today that Gannett is prepared to cut more jobs next year, following the recent mass layoff in the troubled newspaper division.

Yet, in a new statement that sounds more definitive, the company says it assumes “headcount” will fall next year in the following business segments, by these percentage amounts:

  • U.S. papers (excluding USA Today): down in the “low teens.”
  • USAT: down in the “mid single digits.”
  • U.K. division Newsquest: down in the “mid teens.”
  • TV division: down in the “mid to high single digits.”

The statement doesn’t say how these reductions would occur: whether by more layoffs, attrition or other means. The recent layoff targeted 10% of the newspaper workforce.

Debating GCI’s intentions
Some readers challenge my interpretation of the statement, and the remarks by Dubow (left).

“Did Dubow say there would be ADDITIONAL job cuts in the ‘low teens’ in 2009?” asks Anonymous@2:12 p.m. “I took a look at the Gannett statement and I think they are saying that the number of employees working in that division at the end of 2009 will be 12%, 13%, 14% (‘low teens’) less than in 2008. Given there have been three or four rounds of cuts in 2008 at most newspapers, I think this really says they are NOT projecting additional job cuts in 2009. The 2008 cuts plus retirements/attrition will probably add up to ‘low teens’ that’s mentioned.”

Dubow: ‘Sizing to revenue’
I suspect Gannett was already planning to reduce newspaper employment again next year — on top of what happened this year — before the economy deep-dived. Now, with a full-on recession, it’s hard to see any other choice. Remember what Dubow told the conference earlier:

“We are always going to size to the revenue that is there,” he said, adding that decisions will be made market-by-market. “We’re going to have to see where and how the economy reacts next year.”

The Associated Press has now moved a story.

Chief Financial Officer Gracia Martore (left) said holiday-related advertising sales are key to what happens next. “The next three weeks are crucial to our results,” she told the conference. In the first two months of the current quarter, she said, total revenue is down about 14% from a year ago.

Their remarks came on the third and final day of the 36th annual media week conference in New York City. I listened to the Webcast (replay here; scroll to Gannett link), but didn’t live-blog quite like I did last year. UBS investment bank was the sponsor.

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