Seattle paper says workers told jobs will end

NEW YORK, March 10 (Reuters) - The Seattle Post-Intelligencer has told employees they might lose their jobs as soon as next week after a deadline for Hearst Corp to sell the newspaper passed on Monday.

Hearst, which also may close the San Francisco Chronicle if the paper cannot cut costs, has not yet decided what to do with the Seattle paper, the Post-Intelligencer reported on its website on Tuesday.

“These options exist: 1) Seek buyer. If no buyer, then 2) Go digital, or 3) Close. No decision has been made,” Hearst spokesman Paul Luthringer told the paper.

The paper has notified its roughly 170 employees that their jobs will end between March 18 and April 1, but said that it could shut down at any time.

Hearst must pay employees through March 18.

A small group of employees has received provisional job offers to join a smaller Internet-only version of the paper, but Hearst has not decided if it will pursue that option.

If the New York-based Hearst closed the Post-Intelligencer or Chronicle, they would join a growing list of papers that are shutting down as advertising revenue slides and, in some cases, losses and debt payments loom.

The Post-Intelligencer lost $14 million in 2008 and may lose more money this year, Hearst said in January.

Last month, EW Scripps Co SSP.N closed the Rocky Mountain News in Denver. In 2007, it closed The Cincinnati Post, its hometown paper. USA Today publisher Gannett Co Inc GCI.N might shut down the Tucson Citizen in Arizona.

The San Francisco Chronicle’s fate remains uncertain.

The California Media Workers Guild tentatively has agreed to changing the terms of its collective bargaining agreement with the Chronicle, including a move that would let the paper cut employees without regard to seniority.

Guild members will vote on ratifying the changes, which could keep the paper open, as early as Thursday.

At the Post-Intelligencer, employees are preparing for the worst. On its website, the paper is inviting readers to share memories of the 146-year-old Pulitzer Prize-winning paper.

A blog entry on the website’s homepage carries the headline, “So what’s going to happen to the P-I?” The first words of the blog entry are, “We don’t know.” (Reporting by Robert MacMillan; Editing by Ted Kerr)