LAT

Times pulls out of the Valley **

creditAdded below: Publisher says 300 Times jobs lost in all

There's still a few reporters based in an office in Encino (and they are slated to move), but the Chatsworth printing plant will close and 110 production positions will be eliminated. After it opened in 1983 with the paper's most modern presses, the Chatsworth facility became the home base for a major push to dominate the Valley with dozens of reporters and editors, special coverage of news, sports and the arts devoted to suburban readers, and a big marketing and community affairs effort. Remember the ice cream cone billboards with the slogan "More scoops than the Daily News?" The Chatsworth plant itself grew into a prominent Valley institution and tour location. The coverage has been gradually abandoned since the Tribune took over Times Mirror in 2000, and newer Times presses in downtown, Orange County and Irwindale are more up to date. With circulation down so much, the Chatsworth capacity isn't needed anymore. Employees will be offered "voluntary separation packages," but the expected number of layoffs is high enough that the Times this morning alerted local officials under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act. The employee bulletin follows after the jump.

Also: Assistant Managing Editor Janet Clayton just sent this email to reassure the Metro newsroom downtown:

Metro staffers,

We all just received an internal news announcement ("production consolidation") that the Times' San Fernando Valley plant in Chatsworth is closing. It was a business/production decision and I just want to stress that it has no newsroom or staffing effect on editorial. We'll continue to report and write all the stories that we need to cover.

Janet

* And: The Times will try to sell its 26 acres in Chatsworth. Historical note: The Times and Valley land have been closely tied together since 1909, when then-publisher Harrison Gray Otis joined in a consortium of downtown interests to buy up 47,5000 acres of wheat fields and sheep ranches to create the towns that became the suburbs of Van Nuys, Reseda and Canoga Park. Otis himself got a ranch along the Ventura Highway (now Ventura Boulevard) that his heirs sold to author Edgar Rice Burroughs. That ranch became the center of Tarzana. 2:30 pm

** Publisher's message: Jeffrey Johnson tells staffers that closure of Chatsworth was the final step in the current wave of cuts. About 300 jobs are being lost across the paper, including the 85 or so previously reported in editorial. He says there will now be "key hires" in editorial to boost regional coverage (translation: Southern California rather than Los Angeles County), and claims that home delivered circulation last month was up 38,000 daily and 45,000 Sunday over last year. His memo follows the Chatsworth announcement after the jump. 3:35pm

Morning bulletin to employees:

Employee Bulletin
December 5, 2005


TO: Times Employees

FROM: Mark Kurtich, Senior Vice President, Operations

SUBJECT: Production Consolidation

Today we're announcing that we're consolidating production at three of our most modern and efficient facilities in downtown Los Angeles, Costa Mesa and Irwindale and closing the Chatsworth plant.

The consolidation will not affect publication of any of our five editions, including the San Fernando Valley and Ventura County editions, or the products and services offered to readers and advertisers.

We deeply regret the impact the consolidation will have on employees, but the reality is that we've invested $500 million to modernize and build new facilities and expand color capacity since the Chatsworth plant became operational in 1983.

Here are the reasons why we're able to consolidate these facilities:

The more modern plants in downtown Los Angeles, Costa Mesa and Irwindale are fully capable of handling our current circulation levels as well as meeting the future needs of Times readers and advertisers.

We completed a $405 million press modernization project in 1992 that included the construction of the new downtown Los Angeles Olympic facility and the addition of new color presses at the Costa Mesa facility.

This year we completed a $46 million color expansion project that increased color ad capacity by 33 percent, giving us more color capacity than any newspaper in Southern California.

In 2002 we built a $50 million state-of-the-art pre-print production, inserting and distribution center in Irwindale.

The closing of the Chatsworth plant will result in the elimination of approximately 110 positions from across the newspaper's production facilities. We will seek to accomplish as many of the reductions as possible through a voluntary separation package. Non-Operations staff based at the Chatsworth plant will be relocated, and we're evaluating a number of relocation options. It is expected that the transition to the downtown Los Angeles and Costa Mesa facilities will be completed in the first quarter of 2006.

With 11 presses at the downtown Los Angeles and Costa Mesa plants coupled with our production facilities in Irwindale, The Times will continue to have one of the largest investments in newspaper production facilities in the country.

Afternoon message from Publisher:

TO: Times Employees

FROM: Jeff Johnson

Three weeks ago I communicated that every department was to begin the process of making difficult decisions about the size and shape of our organization, including specific job reductions. With today's Operations Department announcement regarding the Chatsworth facility, the announcements related to those decisions are now complete.

As a result, the total number of jobs impacted will be about 300. This number represents a combination of both voluntary and involuntary separations, with the hope that the majority will be voluntary. I recognize these very difficult actions have been felt throughout the organization, and I deeply appreciate the professionalism of all employees during this time.

During this period of tumultuous change in the media environment, now, more than ever, it's important to make meaningful investments in The Times and have absolute focus on our top strategies going into 2006. Highlights include:

A renewed focus on deepening our connection with readers, advertisers and communities of Southern California, including investing more in regional coverage with key hires in Editorial, as well as significantly expanding geographically targeted sales areas.

A heightened commitment to our online operations, with a goal to become yet more complementary to our print businesses and ultimately indispensable site destinations.

Growing our portfolio of developing media businesses to reach new audiences and provide new solutions for advertisers.

Results of other actions recently implemented are already beginning to show tremendous progress. In our core print business, we're seeing signs of solid improvement in home delivery circulation--those copies that matter most to our advertisers. Last month, Sunday home-delivery increased 45,000 over last year and weekday is up over 38,000. Individually paid copies will continue to be our highest priority next year, and we plan to promote this success as well.

Looking to online, in just the first four months since the redesign of latimes.com, we have already witnessed a 50% increase in traffic. Further, our new companion entertainment website, TheEnvelope.com, is also off to a terrific start and is just the beginning of great developments ahead of us online and also in the field of entertainment.

We continue to publish compelling stories that readers can find only in The Times. Our recent conservators investigative series and Steve Lopez's columns chronicling life on Skid Row are only two examples of how our great journalism can make a difference in people's lives. Looking ahead to the first quarter, we'll be launching a major redesign of our Sunday magazine and also introducing other significant design changes in our main news section. All of these initiatives and more will underscore our commitment to the great journalism that is the cornerstone of The Times, particularly now as we move toward our 125th anniversary of publication in 2006.


Thank you for all that you do for The Times. I deeply appreciate your continued contributions and support for this great institution, especially during these difficult times, and I look forward to tackling the challenges we face together in the coming weeks and months.




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