The Deseret News will cut up to 35 staff positions by mid-July as a result of rapidly declining classified advertising revenue, the newspaper's management said Thursday.

"It's extremely painful," Deseret News editor Joe Cannon said. "It's unprecedented in the history of this paper, at least in its modern history."

The newspaper's revenue has fallen 32 percent since January, largely from a drastic drop in employment ads in the classified section. The rise of Internet classifieds has had a direct impact on the newspaper's bottom line.

Competition from the Internet to deliver news and information has taken a toll on newspapers nationwide. The Washington Post, for example, lost $77 million in print advertising last year, while gaining only $6 million in online ad revenue. Declines in advertising and circulation have forced many papers to trim their staffs.

"This is a systemic problem. It's not unique to the Deseret News," Cannon said.

In general, circulation is down 16 percent industrywide. Locally, the Salt Lake Tribune's circulation has dropped 8 percent, while Deseret News circulation has dipped 2 percent.

Historically, newspapers have lost money when circulation has declined. Even though Deseret News circulation has remained relatively flat, the rapid drop in classified ad sales forced the paper to make the cuts.

"There is no stone we haven't looked under for cost reductions," Cannon said, noting personnel is by far the paper's largest expense.

The layoffs will take place over the next six weeks and will affect all newspaper departments. Those laid off will receive 1 1/2 weeks' pay for each year of service, plus three additional weeks of pay. Employees may voluntarily leave under those conditions, at the discretion of management.

A committee, made up mostly of editors, will begin immediately looking at where those cuts will be made. The paper has about 200 full-time employees.

The newspaper also will be restructured in an effort to appeal to local readers as well as a worldwide audience, particularly members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who make up the vast majority of the newspaper's readership. The LDS Church owns the Deseret News.

Cannon said the Deseret News will focus on being a 24-hour news source via words and multimedia that will be "more local, more online, more Mormon."

"In the land of the Internet, we're not in a state of 2.5 million people. We're in a village that has many millions of people in it," he said.

While the newspaper seeks to optimize its expanding online component, it will continue to look for ways to stay competitive in print.

"I'm not abandoning the idea of revenue from a print newspaper, but if we were only to rely on that, we would be going down a bad path," Cannon said.


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