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February 12, 2008 / Toby Dayton

Star Tribune Shrinks Its Staff Yet Again…

The Minneapolis Star Tribune announced another round of layoffs, letting go of 58 people or 3% of its workforce.¬† With 1,875 employees still remaining, even after these latest cuts and all the cuts its made in the past few years, it’s no wonder the paper is struggling. I cannot believe the paper still has that many people left. Even more shocking is that the current staffing levels are anemic compared to what they were a few years back. What do all these people do all day? Granted, the paper owns its own presses, which has to account for a significant portion of the headcount. But even so, I cannot begin to imagine how bloated and overstaffed the paper must be even at these pared back levels. The paper gets thinner and thinner every day and the quality of the content is greatly diminished from what it once was. Some columnists only write¬† a few times each week, more and more stories are pulled from the AP newswire or rerun from the New York Times or the Washington Post 2 days after their appearance in those papers, and the paper has even begun reprinting local blogs a few times each week (which is a good move, but the point is that more and more is being done that requires fewer and fewer people). Technology should be making things easier and faster and more efficient. And the paper has already outsourced a ton of its design work to India.

And yet there are still almost 2,000 people working there. Doing what?!?! It’s got to be worse than state government with an average of 3 people doing the job of 1 full-time employee in a real company. My guess is that unless the paper spins out its printing business and lets that unit become a competitive, stand-alone business on its own (and outsources its printing to that company on a competitive basis), and then cuts back staff levels by at least an additional 25%, it has no chance of surviving. And those cuts need to be made very, very soon in quick, dramatic, aggressive fashion. In reality, they probably should cut staff by 50% after the printing spin-out, thereby pruning a ton 0f dead wood, and then staff back up to some degree with some new blood. My completely uneducated guess is that there is no reason why the Strib couldn’t publish a strong daily paper and make money with about 650 – 800 employees. If it cannot, it doesn’t deserve to be in business.

[tags]Minneapolis Star Tribune, Death By A Thousand Nicks, Dying A Slow Death, Swallow The Bitter Pill, Daily Recommendation For The Dailies, Free Business Advice, Unqualified Opinions, Annoying Commentary From The Peanut Gallery[/tags]

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