Belo to cut 250 jobs, mostly at Dallas Morning News

Wednesday, September 29th 2004, 9:39 am
By: News On 6

DALLAS (AP) _ Media owner Belo Corp. said Wednesday that it would cut 250 jobs, mostly at its flagship newspaper, The Dallas Morning News, and that an internal investigation shows the projected circulation decline at the newspaper would be slightly steeper than previously forecast.

Belo said the layoffs, amounting to 3 percent of its total work force, were prompted by flat revenue since 2001 in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, where it also owns a television station. The layoffs are expected to occured by Nov. 1.

Dallas-based Belo said the Morning News' circulation would fall 11.9 percent on Sundays and 5.1 percent on other days for the six months ended Sept. 30 compared to a year earlier. The company had said last month the declines would be 11.5 percent on Sundays and 5 percent other days.

It said Wednesday that it found no evidence of wrongdoing by current senior executives of the newspaper or the parent company. The vice president of circulation left the newspaper last month.

Belo disclosed Aug. 5 that The Morning News had overstated newspaper sales by 5 percent on Sundays and 1.5 percent for other days. Advertisers overpaid because rates are usually based on circulation.

The company blamed the overstatement on a sales-incentive program that began several years ago and has since been stopped.

Belo also announced last month that it would pay $23 million in cash, another $4 million on extra newsprint for make-good ads, and take a $26 million charge against earnings to compensate advertisers for the mistake.

Belo also owns 19 television stations and three other daily newspapers: the Providence (R.I.) Journal, the Press-Enterprise in Riverside, Calif., and the Denton (Texas) Record-Chronicle. Belo said it found no evidence of circulation overstatements at the other papers.

Robert W. Decherd, Belo chairman, president and chief executive, said Wednesday that third-quarter earnings would be in line with forecasts from analysts after excluding one-time charges.

Belo also said it expected to cut $10 million in losses by closing three local cable news channels it ran with Time Warner Cable. Belo hinted it could save another $1.7 million by closing a similar channel in Texas.

Decherd said 2005 would be ``a challenging year'' for most media companies, without much revenue from Olympics and political advertising. He said Belo would see ``a modest reduction'' in network compensation.

The company earned $128.5 million last year on sales of $1.44 billion. It has about 7,900 employees.