Newsroom Layoffs Hit Spokesman-Review

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Steve Smith, the editor of the Spokane, Wash. Spokesman-Review, has some ugly work ahead of him. He's been directed by Cowles Media, the company that owns his paper, to lay some staff off.

Company-wide, the cuts may be as large as 30 people. That's out of a staff of 550 full-time employees.

"These cuts will mean a lesser paper," he said in a memo to staff. "Some things we do now, important things, will be eliminated. Our readers will notice."

Details are hard to come by. The Spokesman-Review story about the layoffs notes that, according to publisher W. Stacey Cowles, several years of flat revenues in the areas of advertising and circulation sales are forcing the staff shuffle, since regular costs are still climbing with the rate of inflation.

In an e-mail to BW, Smith said he hoped to have more details by the end of this week.

Despite its location in Spokane, the Spokesman-Review provides some of the best reporting available on the Idaho political scene, courtesy of Betsy Russell, the paper's Boise-based reporter. Russell writes the Eye on Boise blog and her work gets reprinted regularly in the Idaho Statesman.

Smith said he was committed to Russell's work, but couldn't promise anything just now.

"Capitol coverage is fundamental to our core mission and Betsy's work is as good as it gets, providing north Idaho readers with information they can get from no other source," Smith said. "I am devoted to keeping the bureau in operation if at all possible."

Spokesman-Review blogger (and editor and columnist) D.F. Oliveria wrote on his Huckleberries Online blog today that the pending layoffs have "hit the newsroom hard."

"It's a precarious time to be in the news biz, when print journalism is struggling to stay afloat," Oliveria wrote. "I've been fortunate to be a part of the new online world, for almost four years. But online journalism doesn't help much with the bottom line."