Houston Chronicle to lay off 5 pct of work force

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Houston Chronicle said on Tuesday it will lay off about 5 percent of its work force, the latest round of job cuts in a U.S. newspaper industry hit by declining advertising sales.

The Chronicle will lose about 70 of its 1,400 positions, Publisher Jack Sweeney said, confirming an article on the paper’s Web site and a memo he wrote to employees that was posted on the Romenesko journalism blog.

“It’s a very hard thing,” he told Reuters. “I mean, nobody’s sitting here and twiddling their thumbs like at most newspapers, (but) we really need to operate differently and at less cost.”

The Chronicle’s ad revenue has “trended down” during the past five years, and the paper expects a similar downturn in 2008, Sweeney told the newspaper’s Web site.

The paper is owned by privately held Hearst Corp. and ranks 13th in the United States in terms of readership, with more than 1.2 million people picking up a copy on an average weekday, according to the most recent data released by the Newspaper Association of America.

Hearst owns daily papers in larger U.S. cities, including the San Francisco Chronicle and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Another of its Texas newspapers, The San Antonio Express-News, will cut 40 to 50 positions across the company, the Chronicle reported.

The news comes amid mostly downbeat quarterly earnings reports by publicly traded newspaper companies such as McClatchy Co and Media General Inc.

Other publishers are also trying to trim costs by reducing the size of their staff. Gannett Co Inc and privately held MediaNews, which jointly operate the Detroit Free Press and Detroit News, earlier this month said they would offer buyouts.

Tribune Co has offered buyouts at papers including the Los Angeles Times and Baltimore Sun, while The New York Times Co’s Boston Globe said in March it would cut 6 percent of its newsroom staff through buyouts.