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Originally published Tuesday, January 11, 2011 at 12:50 PM

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Gannett to cut staff at 3 NJ papers by nearly half

Gannett Co. will lay off nearly half its editorial staff at three New Jersey community newspapers by next month and will restructure the remaining positions, according to several staffers.

Associated Press

TRENTON, N.J. —

Gannett Co. will lay off nearly half its editorial staff at three New Jersey community newspapers by next month and will restructure the remaining positions, according to several staffers.

The affected newspapers are the Courier News of Bridgewater, Daily Record of Parsippany and Home News Tribune of East Brunswick, where a combined 99 staff members will have to apply for 53 remaining positions. Those not kept will be cut loose by Feb. 4.

The company offered to pay staff the difference between their salary and unemployment insurance, a week for every year of service up to 26 weeks, but no less than four, according to a staff member.

The staff members spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk about the layoffs. They said reporters at the community papers will be assigned to teams to focus on particular topics and more content may be used from the Asbury Park Press.

A memo by Thomas M. Donovan, president and publisher of New Jersey Press Media Solutions - a consortium of Gannett's four northern New Jersey newspapers - was made available to staff Monday explaining the process.

In an e-mailed statement to the Associated Press on Tuesday, Donovan said the changes would help the company "better focus" its resources on local and breaking news coverage.

"We are very committed to serving our customers here and by leveraging the regional reporting capabilities of our New Jersey operations, we will create greater efficiencies to provide the best possible journalism, zeroing in on the topics our readers care most about on the platforms they prefer," Donovan wrote.

Gannett has been looking to rebound from a prolonged slump that has triggered a succession of layoffs in recent years.

Since December 2008, Gannett eliminated more than 300 full-time and about 20 part-time positions at its six New Jersey newspapers. It consolidated copy editing and page production operations for four New Jersey newspapers to The Asbury Park Press offices in Neptune in April 2009.

McLean, Va.-based Gannett is the country's biggest newspaper publisher, with more than 80 community newspapers nationwide. A Gannett spokeswoman said Tuesday the New Jersey layoffs aren't part of a broader plan to cut jobs at the company's other newspapers.

Last week Gannett told workers at its community newspapers that they will have to take a week off without pay to avoid more layoffs as revenue continues to fall in the first quarter.

Gannett's third-quarter net income climbed to $101.4 million, or 42 cents per share, in the three months ended Sept. 26. That's up from $73.8 million, or 31 cents per share, a year earlier.

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