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Rockford Register Star lays off 13
Associated Press
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Published: 8/19/2008 7:35 AM

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ROCKFORD -- The Rockford Register Star has laid off 13 full and part-time employees and closed its Springfield bureau because of the economy, officials said Monday.

The latest layoffs at the northern Illinois paper came after a round of voluntary buyouts from April to June that resulted in the departure of 17 employees. The newspaper now has 355 employees, including about 75 in the newsroom.

"We said at the outset that buyouts might not be enough," President and Publisher Scott Bowers told the staff Monday, the paper reported. "We had to look at business conditions and then make changes that still ensured the integrity of our products to both our readers and our advertisers. That brought us to layoffs, something that is never easy, but unfortunately, a reality in this economy."

Newspaper revenue and circulation have shrunk as readers -- with advertisers in tow -- increasingly move online. The Chicago Tribune announced last week it had carried out a plan to trim 14 percent of newsroom staff in a move to save $8.8 million in annual costs.

The Register Star also closed its Springfield bureau Monday, a move it considered but decided not to do five years ago and again 18 months ago.

"We kept the bureau open through some previous tough times," said Linda Grist Cunningham, executive editor. "Frankly, I made a choice between the bureau in Springfield and local news in the Rock River Valley. It's a loss, but losing another local reporter would have been worse."

In the past the newspaper has frozen positions, restructured departments and added new systems to cut expenses, managers said. Fairport, N.Y.-based GateHouse Media, Inc. purchased the Register Star last year.

The cost of printing the paper helped lead to the layoffs, Bowers said.

"We, both as an industry and as an individual business, are acknowledging the economic changes and dealing with them," he said. "A combination of escalating newsprint costs and the cost of petroleum products, coupled with a decline in revenues, means we had to make some changes."

Bowers told the employees the cuts may not be over.

"The question everyone will ask is, 'Is this enough?'" Bowers said. "We can't promise that. Unfortunately, economic conditions drive our destiny."