Pilot Media cuts more than 50 jobs

Pilot Media, which includes The Virginian-Pilot, is cutting more than 50 jobs, reducing its workforce to under 870. The cuts are coming from layoffs, early retirements and the elimination of open positions, said Maurice Jones, The Pilot's publisher.

It is the fourth round of layoffs at the newspaper company since late 2008. Most of the layoffs and other job reductions will occur by the end of the year, Jones said.

"We're not in any crisis," he said Monday. "But we are looking forward at what we think is going to be an economic climate that's not going to give us a lot of help through at least next year."

Advertising revenue is down from last year, Jones said, though revenue from online operations and niche publications, such as Inside Business and military newspapers, has risen. Jones declined to provide details on advertising revenue or profits but said the company remains profitable. The Pilot is published by Landmark Media Enterprises LLC, a privately held Norfolk company.

The Pilot's newsroom will lose 16 positions, dropping to 157, said Denis Finley, the editor. The workforce will be 37 percent smaller than in 2007, when the news operation had about 250 employees.

"We might be smaller and we might have fewer pages, but our commitment is not diminished," Finley said. "We will keep producing the highest quality journalism, no matter the circumstances, because we care about our community."

To save money, The Pilot already has reduced its number of pages by 24 per week. It combined the main and Hampton Roads sections on Mondays and dropped the Sunday health and science section.

Elsewhere in the company, Pilot Direct, a direct mail business, closed this month, Jones said. It has 13 employees, down from about 28 a year ago, he said.

Newspapers are struggling against a weak economy and online competition. Yet Jones said recent figures mostly showed that the print version of The Pilot has expanded its reach with readers.

Total circulation for the Sunday paper rose 1.2 percent to 176,054, as of Sept. 30, from 173,940 in 2010, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations. Weekday circulation dropped 7.1 percent to 145,785 from 156,968.

Those figures count the number of households with a paper. Scarborough Research estimates the number of people who have looked at the paper. According to Scarborough, the daily version of The Pilot averaged 347,376 readers from March to August, up 10.1 percent from 315,502 during the same period in 2010. The Sunday paper averaged 442,304 readers, up 2.4 percent from 432,110.

Jones has been nominated to be deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee questioned him at a public hearing last week.

Jones said Monday that his interest in the job was not related to The Pilot's financial challenges. He said he was not asked to leave his position as publisher nor was he eager to go.

"I love this job," he said. But the federal position offers the chance "to work on one of the fundamental challenges confronting the whole country - housing."

Source: Hampton Roads