Cuts nip traditional news-staff ratio
The unwritten but widely honored rule of thumb in the industry always has been that a newspaper should employ one journalist for every 1,000 in daily circulation.
But plans announced today to lighten the Chicago Tribune newsroom by some 14% to 498 journalists will drop the ratio there to 0.88 newsfolk for every 1,000 of the paper's 556.8k daily readers. The staff will be 25.7% smaller than it was in 2005, according to the newspaper.
The ratio will be 0.90 journalists per 1,000 readers at the Tampa Tribune, which last week announced plans to eliminate a fifth of its news jobs. Those cuts will leave the paper with 200 journalists to serve 220k readers.
In other recently announced staff reductions, the Los Angeles Times will have a ratio of 0.92, the Baltimore Sun will be 0.98, the Kansas City Star is going to 1.00 and the Palm Beach Post will be 1.11, according to the cutbacks logged by Erica Smith at GraphicDesignr.Net. Erica says 1,510+ positions were lost in June and 5,991+ were eliminated in the first half of the year.
One of the lowest metro staffing ratios is at the San Jose Mercury News, which today employs approximately a third of the 420 journalists who worked there in 2001. The latest round of cuts has reduced the Merc’s staff to 0.67 journalists for each 1,000 of its 229.5k subscribers.
If every newspaper went to 0.88 journalists per 1,000 readers, then theoretically 6,312 currently employed scribes would be superfluous, based on the national newsroom headcount of 52,600 reported earlier this year by the American Society of Newspaper Editors. (Though the ASNE counts noses in a decidedly confusing fashion, its census is the only data we have.)
If all publishers adopted the San Jose ratio of 0.67 journalists per 1,000 readers, then the industry would be overstaffed by 17,358 news people. And so it goes.