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Another Round of Layoffs in Store at Circulation-Hemmoraging 'Citizen'

Gannett, the publishing giant that owns the Tucson Citizen, is in the midst of another massive employee-slashing cycle. The publishing wing will cut 10 percent of its workforce by the first of December--this on the heels of a 1,000-employee reduction earlier this fall.

"We will institute an involuntary staff reduction of approximately 10 percent by the first week of December. The terms of the severance will be one week for each year of service with a cap of 26 weeks," said Gannett U.S. Community Publishing president Robert J. Dickey in a company memo dated Oct. 28. "Each publisher is responsible for developing their local plan to achieve the expected goal. Decisions will be made locally because each of our markets is unique, with differing market conditions and individual needs in light of our previous reductions. I have asked that all plans be completed by Nov. 14, at which time they will go through the standard review process."

What this means for the Citizen is that seven people will likely lose their jobs by the end of the month. That would bring the total layoff tally at Tucson's afternoon daily to 10; the Citizen let three people go as part of the September cutback mandate.

Dickey points to familiar culprits as reasons for the move.

"The fiscal crisis is deepening, and the economy is getting worse. Gannett's revenues continue to be severely impacted by this downturn, and our local operations are suffering. While we are doing our best to reduce all non-staff-related expenses, I am sorry to report that we must do another round of layoffs across our division," said Dickey in the memo. "While this is more bad news, it is a sign of Gannett's determination to remain healthy and viable as a company during these turbulent economic times. We continue to be a leader in our industry, not only because of our fiscal strength but also because we have a plan to aggressively grow the company when the economy returns."

What Gannett's plans are for Tucson remain uncertain. The Citizen has struggled for more than a decade, a victim of an afternoon newspaper model that has suffered in light of technological advancements allowing for online access in an instant-gratification society. The Citizen's circulation is now less than 20,000, about a fifth of its Tucson Newspapers morning counterpart, the Arizona Daily Star, owned by Lee Enterprises, which is having issues of its own.

One source says that according to a recent memo to Star employees, company contributions to most employee 401(k) plans will be suspended or cut until economic conditions improve. It's also rumored that executive pay has been frozen, bonuses will be suspended and future stock grant programs have been put on hold.


LAYOFFS TAKING PLACE IN RADIO AS WELL

Citadel Broadcasting, which operates five radio stations in Tucson (and employs me for UA pregame and postgame shows on KCUB AM 1290), laid off seven local employees last week, including Jim Bednarek, a 30-year veteran of Tucson radio who acted as program director of adult-standards KTUC AM 1400.

"I'm disappointed. I'm going to miss my family of listeners the most," said Bednarek. "I want to stress this: I have absolute zero animosity toward the people in the building over there. It's a great bunch of people: a great operations manager in Herb Crowe, who gave me the opportunity to program. Ken Kowalcek is a great general manager. It was a great place to work, and I'm going to miss those people."

Bednarek can trace his time with the operation to before Citadel's purchase of the radio group from Slone Broadcasting in December 2000. He started there with KHYT FM 107.5, also working for the failed KSZR Cat Country 97.5 FM, which also went through a Top 40 transformation as Star 97.5 before its current incarnation as KSZR 97.5 Bob FM. From there, he landed the PD position with KTUC.

Bednarek started his radio career in 1976 with KTKT AM 990, and other than a couple of brief stints in Phoenix, he has been a fixture on the Tucson airwaves since.

He continues to maintain his Web site, bednareksmusicworks.com.

"It's the nature of the beast," said Bednarek regarding his forced unemployment. "We'll see what comes. I'm available."

The Citadel layoffs also included Valerie Knight, who worked alongside Tim Tyler on the KHYT morning show and handled traffic-report responsibilities in the afternoons; and the two other on-air personalities.

Management did not return a request for comment.

The Tucson cutbacks were part of a nationwide downsizing. Financially, Citadel has struggled. Its stock value currently hovers around 30 cents; it had a stock value of more than $4 around this time a year ago.


SOFTBALL STAR INTERNS AT KMSB

Wildcat sports fans are familiar with Taryne Mowatt, the softball standout who threw more than 1,000 pitches in the 2007 College World Series and led the UA to its eighth national softball championship.

With softball behind her, Mowatt is pursuing career options, and step No. 1 has brought her to KMSB Channel 11 in a paid-intern capacity.

"Taryne is tremendous. She's been great for us," said KMSB sports director Vinnie Vinzetta. "It's a pleasure to have her on board. She's willing to dig any ditch she has to dig ... Hopefully, this springboards her to bigger and better things."

Vinzetta says the two-time ESPY Award winner endures many of the typical intern duties.

"She has to do some of those small things ..." Vinzetta said. "She's been great. She has interest in TV, and we'll see where she wants to go from here. Maybe she'll be reporting for Fox 11 before her internship is up.

"It's a paid internship. She's doing this for the job. Her softball collegiate days are over, and she has some time to see what the profession has to offer her."

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