More than 250 business journalism jobs lost in first six months

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TALKING BIZ NEWS EXCLUSIVE

More than 250 business journalists lost their jobs due to media closings, layoffs or newsroom buyouts in the first six months of 2009, according to an analysis of the industry by the Carolina Business News Initiative at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The layoffs include the entire staff of Conde Nast Portfolio, a two-year-old business glossy that closed its doors in late April. An estimated 80 journalists on its staff lost their jobs, including editor Joanne Lipman. Some of the Web staff kept their jobs when the Portfolio site was taken over by American City Business Journals.

The biggest cuts in the past six months, however, occurred at Bloomberg, where 100 reporters and editors in the company’s TV and radio operations lost their jobs in February.

The total number only includes layoffs that have been confirmed by media outlets or by current and former employees of media outlets where jobs were cut. We believe that the actual number is higher than 250.

Among daily newspapers, the business news desks at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Rocky Mountain News and Tucson Citizen were eliminated when those papers stopped printing. A dozen lost their jobs in Denver, while six business desk positions were cut in Seattle.

Layoffs also hit the business desks of the Chicago Tribune, which lost four business reporters in May, and the San Antonio Express-News, where four business journalists were laid off and another two accepted a buyout. Four business journalists were also laid off at the Houston Chronicle biz desk, and two were laid off from the biz desk at the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Buyouts affected the business desk of the San Francisco Chronicle, where two reporters accepted the paper’s offer and two others were laid off, and at the Boston Globe, where three staffers took the buyout and at least one reporter was laid off.

At the Fresno Bee in California, business editor Mike Nemeth lost his job as part of a newsroom downsizing, as did Lexington Herald-Leader business editor Jeff Beach.

On the bright side, Detroit Free Press business editor Randy Essex told me this past week that the business desk there was spared any cuts when the paper laid off 22.

On May 1, American City Business Journals employees were told that five newspapers within the chain would have layoffs: Charlotte, Boston, Seattle, Sacramento, Hawaii and San Francisco, which let go many of the employees that had been transferred from the former East Bay Business Times, which closed last year. The decision to lay people off was made shortly after the chain announced a pay cut.
This past month, the chain’s Mass High Tech paper also had layoffs as it cut its publication schedule from once a week to once every other week.
The Crain papers have also been affected. It shut its New York-based Financial Week and its Web site, cutting a dozen editorial staff positions.
SmartMoney, Forbes and Enterpreneur were among the business magazines that cut editorial staff jobs.

The base is hard to determine, but I estimate that there are at least 8,000 working business journalists in the United States. So, annualized, the losses would be about a 6 percent cut.