Bulletin lays off 17, plans tab


POSTED: Saturday, February 07, 2009

Seventeen layoffs of newsroom personnel and a wage freeze were announced at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin yesterday as part of a cost-saving effort that also will have the newspaper shift from broadsheet to tabloid format.

“;The Star-Bulletin and MidWeek have been performing better than most over the past year, but unfortunately, the slowdown has reached us as well,”; said Dennis Francis, president and publisher of parent company Oahu Publications Inc., in a memo. The company also publishes HI Luxury, a glossy upscale lifestyle magazine mailed to select households on Oahu.

The newspaper said it would eliminate its three neighbor island bureaus and indicated that an undetermined number of job cuts will be made in other areas of the company.

The newsroom layoffs, effective March 1, represent 4.5 percent of the company's 380 employees.

The format shift does not mean the paper will become a tabloid akin to titles found at supermarket checkout lanes.

“;The content will be the same quality news, in the reporting style that (readers) currently enjoy,”; Francis said.

The Star-Bulletin will be similar to MidWeek in size, with a different look because of the redesign.

The launch date for the conversion to a tab has not been set. Several mainland newspapers have switched from broadsheet to tabloid format, and last month the Chicago Tribune added a tabloid edition to complement its broadsheet.

A 64-page tabloid is the equivalent of a 32-page broadsheet newspaper.

Additionally, yesterday's edition of the Friday MidWeek was the last. The earlier-in-the-week edition will continue to be published.

The Star-Bulletin wage freeze and other issues must be negotiated with unions representing affected workers. The Hawaii Newspaper Guild, which represents soon-to-be-terminated employees, and other unions representing Oahu Publication workers will meet with the company Monday.

At the competing Honolulu Advertiser, some 150 positions have been cut since negotiations on a new tentative contract agreement began. The old contract expired in June of 2007. Workers will vote tomorrow on the tentative settlement, which includes a 10 percent pay cut.