LA Times to cut 10 percent of news staff

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Los Angeles Times plans to cut 75 jobs, or 10 percent of its news staff, a response to the world financial crisis that is exacerbating already painful advertising declines at U.S. newspapers.

The cuts are comparable in scale to some that the Times made on the business side of its operations last week, Editor Russ Stanton told employees in an e-mail message that the Times posted on its website on Monday.

“The growing economic downturn is forcing us to undergo another round of job reductions and cost cuts,” Stanton wrote. “I appreciate your patience, understanding and cooperation during this difficult period.”

It is the second round of news staff layoffs since a previous round was announced in July. The paper has offered buyouts and has cut back staff levels in its news operations from a high of some 1,200 a bit less than a decade ago.

A Times spokeswoman declined to comment on the news.

The Times is the largest daily paper owned by Chicago-based Tribune Co, which also publishes The Sun in Baltimore, the Hartford Courant and the Orlando Sentinel. It also is one of the largest U.S. papers, with circulation of about 780,000 -- in the same league as The Washington Post, and closer to The New York Times and News Corp’s Wall Street Journal than many other big-city dailies.

The company, which was taken private last year by real estate mogul Sam Zell, is looking for ways to pay back billions of dollars in debt, and has cut staff at most of its papers.

It sold the Newsday newspaper on Long Island in New York to Cablevision Systems Corp and is looking to sell the Chicago Cubs baseball team and its ballpark, Wrigley Field.

Despite an estimated $13 billion in debt on Tribune’s books, the company is considering whether it can buy the Orange County Register of Orange County California, or combine some of its production and distribution operations, the Financial Times newspaper reported on October 22.

A Tribune spokesman declined to comment. A Freedom official was not immediately available for comment.

The news comes on the same day as industry figures showed that the Times’ average weekday circulation fell 5.6 percent to 779,678 copies for the six-month period ended September 30, compared with a year ago. Sunday circulation fell 5.1 percent.

The Register’s weekday circulation fell 15.2 percent in the same period, and Sunday circulation fell 8.2 percent.

Editing by Richard Chang