Newspaper editors see cutbacks as threat to change

NEW YORK: A majority of newspaper managers saw job and content cuts in the past 15 months, and more than two-thirds of editors and publishers said that lack of personnel is a major impediment to newsroom change, according to a study by the Associated Press Managing Editors association.

NEW YORK: A majority of newspaper managers saw job and content cuts in the past 15 months, and more than two-thirds of editors and publishers said that lack of personnel is a major impediment to newsroom change, according to a study by the Associated Press Managing Editors association.

The survey weighed responses from 351 newspaper editors and publishers from April 30 to May 6.

Nearly two-thirds (65%) endured layoffs, 81% saw open positions eliminated, and 53% merged standalone sections into each other in the past 15 months, according to the survey. Most respondents also saw a lack of either employees (68%) or funding (58%) as a major impediment to newsroom change. More than three in 10 (31%) blamed a lack of skills, while (28%) claimed a lack of technology was the culprit. One-quarter said bureaucracy was prohibiting modification.

Large percentages have also seen their newspapers demand employee furloughs (43%), reduce hours of existing employees (30%), cut pay (30%), or eliminate newspaper sections (41%). More than 7% of respondents said their newspapers cut print publication on some days.

"It's not worth complaining about having too few people because the staffing status quo of two years ago isn't coming back," Jeff Gauger, executive editor of Canton, OH-based The Repository, said in an AP story on the survey.

Few managers said their staffs were in confident frames of mind. One-quarter said the mood of their newsroom was "hunkered down, waiting for the economy to improve,"; 23% said they were "willing to change but not sure what to try,"; and 24% said they were "reinventing and innovating." However, most respondents were optimistic about the future of the industry, as 60% agreed that newspapers would find a way to be profitable in the future, while only 12% disagreed. Nearly three in 10 (29%) said they did not know.

An AP representative could not be immediately reached for comment.

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