(Adds background, job cuts at other newspapers)
SAN FRANCISCO Feb 20 The Albuquerque Tribune will publish its last edition on Saturday after owner EW Scripps Co (SSP.N) said it found no buyers for the paper, the latest casualty in the beleaguered newspaper business.
Scripps said it notified the Tribune's 38 editorial employees on Wednesday of the closure and offered them severance packages. Circulation at the New Mexico paper had dwindled to about 10,000 from 42,000 in 1988, Scripps said.
The decision ends the nation's oldest joint operating agreement, under which the Tribune was published afternoons Monday through Saturday and the larger Albuquerque Journal was the daily morning newspaper, Scripps said.
"The loss of the Albuquerque Tribune is profoundly sad for the community, its dedicated staff and all of those great journalists" who worked there, said Rich Boehne, chief operating officer at Scripps.
The closing comes as Bay Area News Group, the San Francisco-area publisher controlled by MediaNews Group Inc, offers buyouts to about 1,100 employees to cut costs. Bay Area News Group's papers include the San Jose Mercury News, the Contra Costa Times and the Oakland Tribune.
The newspaper industry has been in a steep decline as advertisers switch to the Internet. The New York Times Co (NYT.N) said last week it would cut 100 newsroom jobs at its flagship newspaper as it girds for a weaker U.S. economy.
The Albuquerque Journal, owned by Journal Publishing Co, will continue to be published daily and Sundays in the mornings, Scripps said in a statement.
Scripps said last August it was looking for a buyer for the Tribune or would cease its publication after determining the Albuquerque newspaper market could no longer support a separate afternoon paper.
The Journal has a paid circulation of 106,000 daily and 145,000 Sunday.
The Tribune, which Scripps bought in 1923 from founder Carlton Cole "Carl" Magee, has won numerous awards including a Pulitzer Prize for reporter Eileen Welsome in 1994 for a series about Americans used unknowingly in government radiation experiments nearly 50 years earlier.
The paper was a Pulitzer finalist in 1996 and a first-place winner in the 1998 and 2001 National Headliner Awards.
Cincinnati-based Scripps operates daily and community newspapers in 16 markets and the Scripps Media Center, which includes the Scripps Howard News Service. It also owns network-affiliated television stations and brands such as HGTV, Food Network, DIY Network and Fine Living. (Reporting by Philipp Gollner, editing by Leslie Gevirtz)