OC Register to Lay Off 110, Including 30 in Newsroom

*Bumped to the top, with new info as it comes on the bottom...

The following letter from Register publisher Terry Horne landed in my junk folder this morning, right about the time it apparently reached LAObserved. Not a whole lot to add to this, except our wishes that all this self-destructive madness will stop.

Orange County Register Communications announces a reduction in workforce

October 29, 2008 - The following note is confidential and written for associates only, per Register President and Publisher Terry Horne:

Dear Colleagues:

As you know, Orange County Register Communications and the newspaper industry in general have been faced with significant challenges, made even more difficult by the economic situation nationwide. We are taking the necessary actions to confront rising production costs, a challenging economy, and changes in reader and advertiser preferences. Bringing our cost structure in line with current revenues is a necessary step during this transitional time in our industry. Unfortunately, this includes reducing our staffing levels.

Orange County Register Communications is reducing our workforce by approximately 110 associates, across the organization. Many associates are being notified today, and this process of notification is expected to be complete by Friday, October 31.

This decision is not a reflection on the work or the contributions of the associates leaving us this week. It is based on a simple, but unfortunate marketplace reality - we must reduce costs. Asking talented people to leave our organization is by far the most difficult part of this process. I hate having to do it, but it's absolutely necessary.

We will continue to work to find ways to increase revenues and provide readers and advertisers with even greater value while at the same time looking for ways to lower costs, and create a more flexible cost structure. Strategic partners and outsourced relationships will allow us to work more efficiently, and better respond to peaks and valleys of the market. Exploring all strategic alternatives to strengthen our business is critical, while never losing sight of our obligation to provide readers and advertisers with quality and value.

You may be asking if we see any signs of success. We do. OCRegister.com has nearly doubled the size of its online audience this year compared to 2007, thanks to our award-winning watchdog reporting, interactive storytelling and promotions. A future redesign for OCRegister.com and ongoing development of OrangeCounty.com are underway to drive additional audience growth on the Web.

On the print side, we've increased revenue and generated results for hundreds of new advertisers by zoning our Local section. Commercial printing and direct mail revenues have increased. We've made it easier and more affordable to advertise in our community newspapers. We will soon announce a new self-service tool to make advertising in our community newspapers an even more convenient and cost-effective proposition.

I am encouraged by the fact we have a clear strategy guiding us through these decisions, and dedicated teams to see them through.

I appreciate that this is a difficult time for all of us. I want to assure you that we will make every reasonable effort to make this transition as smooth as possible.

Thank you for your resiliency during this challenging time. Leaders thrive in times of uncertainty, and I have the utmost respect for the dedication our leaders display on a daily basis. I appreciate your contributions to our strategy and serving our community.


*UPDATE FROM GUSTAVO ARELLANO: Sources say Gordon Dillow is gone. If true, it's the stupidest decision the Register has ever made--not because we like Dillow, but because he's been one of their most popular columnists for years.

**MORE (from Gustavo): Add classical music critic Timothy Mangan and theater guy (and all-around mensch) Paul Hodgins. Per our source, "Paul Hodgins asked for a buyout and will probably get it but it hasn't been formalized yet." With those two losses, the Reg has abdicated a large chunk of the arts scene in the county. I forget--is dance critic Laura Bleiberg (sp?) still around?

***EVEN MORE (This is Nick again): Okay, folks, let's all slow down. Mangan and Hodgins, along with Dillow, are reported to be seeking buyouts, according to our sources. It is therefore premature to state that the Reg has lost anybody.

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