Sun Sets on Community Newspapers

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Sun Newspapers announced plans for a substantial “reorganization” in June. The chain claimed it would continue covering 72 Northeast Ohio communities but would do it by slashing its work force and products. The changes will eliminate around 100 jobs and 11 newspapers.

The Sun papers plan to announce full details over the next two weeks. Executive Editor Linda Kinsey told Scene she wouldn’t comment until after July 30. But some details could officially emerge as soon as Thursday.

Some papers will cease publishing; some will merge. The reorganization plan vaguely declared that Sun will continue to publish 11 “mastheads” once the plan is implemented — “masthead” being publishing lingo for “staff box.” It doesn’t necessarily mean 11 distinct newspapers, but one preliminary plan from inside the Sun offices says the reconstituted Sun Sentinel will cover Avon, Avon Lake and North Ridgeville.

According to the breakdown, the Parma Sun Post will now cover Independence, Parma, Parma Heights and Seven Hills. The West Shore Sun will cover Bay Village, Rocky River and Westlake. The Sun Post-Herald will cover Fairview Park, Lakewood, North Olmsted, Olmsted Falls and Olmsted Twp. News Sun will cover Berea, Brook Park and Middleburg Heights. The Sun Star Courier will cover Brecksville, Broadview Heights, North Royalton and Strongsville. The Brunswick Sun will cover Brunswick, Brunswick Hills and Hinckley. The Medina Sun will cover Medina. The Chagrin Solon Sun will cover Bainbridge, Bentleyville, Chagrin Falls, Hunting Valley, Moreland Hills, Orange, Pepper Pike, Russell and Solon. The Sun Press will cover Shaker Heights, Cleveland Heights and University Heights.

The two financially strongest papers will remain unchanged: The Sun Press will continue covering Beachwood, and the Sun Messenger will cover South Euclid, Lyndhurst, Mayfield Village, Mayfield Heights, Highland Heights and Gates Mills.

In June, Sun CEO Keith Mathis filed paperwork with the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services projecting the elimination of 115 jobs, including 30 reporters, 26 sales reps, three photographers, and dozens of support staff and skill positions. Some entire departments were cut. The new organization eliminates some of the few remaining lines between the Sun papers and The Plain Dealer, which is also owned by New York-based behemoth parent company Advance. Plain Dealer employees will now handle all accounting, payroll and retail duties. The PD will also deliver Sun papers to homes.

The entire non-union newsroom was offered buyouts. The buyouts were a standard package — a set number of weeks’ salary per years of service, plus continued benefits. Enough writers and editors took it to prevent forced layoffs.

The staff that remains will have some heavy lifting to do. The 22 papers currently have an editorial staff of about 50. The reorganized papers will reportedly have a staff size closer to 35. Currently, 11 people have editor titles. The new papers will have four editors and four assistant editors.

Despite the departing co-workers and an increasing workload, spirits are surprisingly high. The buyouts diffused months of building uncertainty. “Morale is better now that it was in the spring,” says a Sun writer. “The people that are going to stay are really committed to staying.” —D.X. Ferris

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