Over the next 24 hours, Trib Total Media employees will learn whether they still have jobs, after the company announced Wednesday that it’s shuttering the print edition of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
The move — to “re-emphasize local news in its key markets” by publishing its Pittsburgh news digitally, among other shifts — will cost 106 employees their jobs.
Of those, 75 work in production, another 20 will be from the newsroom and the rest are divided among the company’s other departments, president and CEO of Trib Total Media Jennifer Bertetto told The Incline.
Most laid off employees’ last days will be Nov. 30, the last day for print publication of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review — and the last day Pittsburgh will be a two-print-newspaper city.
How we got here
Richard Mellon Scaife, who owned Trib Total Media, launched the Tribune-Review’s Pittsburgh edition in 1992. 90.5 WESA’s Christopher Ayers detailed changes there since his 2014 death:
In August of the following year, the company announced its intention to sell nine of the Tribune-Review’s sister publications, including four regional daily newspapers and five news weeklies. …
The company sold eight of its publications by the end of 2015, including dailies in Connellsville and Kittanning, and shuttered daily newspapers in McKeesport and Monessen after buyers could not be found.
Bertetto also consolidated its three largest dailies and eliminated unprofitable delivery routes, limiting home-delivery service to Allegheny and Westmoreland counties. The Pittsburgh, Greensburg and Tarentum papers have since been distributed as locally zoned editions bearing the Tribune-Review name.
The company employed 1,100 workers across all departments as of July 2015. Since then, more than half had resigned, been laid off or accepted buyouts.
Ninety-five employees took buyouts earlier this month, and after layoffs, Trib Total Media will have 388 full-time and 67 part-time employees. Of the full-time employees, about 120 are in newsrooms, and about 80 percent of that staff will be “involved in creating content” for Pittsburgh, Bertetto said.
What happens for employees
The publisher announced its news this morning — you can read that here — saying that it “will significantly increase staff and other resources devoted to the Westmoreland and Valley News Dispatch editions of the Tribune-Review. [The goal is to] bolster the local news and sports coverage” of what will become a digital product.
Bertetto told The Incline: “What is important to me for our readers and for the community to know is that we are far from over here at Trib Total Media. I feel like we are just getting started. I feel like it’s an exciting new beginning for our company today, though we have the sadness of saying goodbye” to some employees. “That’s the one regret that I have,” she said.
It’s unclear how many employees will remain in the Pittsburgh newsroom, with workers being notified of a reassignment or layoff today and Thursday, Bertetto said. She would not comment if moving to another location is optional for employees.
Where they’ll work
The printing presses at Newsworks in Warrendale will no longer be used, though Trib Total Media operations like circulation, human resources and administration, as well as TTM “affiliate” 535 Media, are housed there, Bertetto said.
In April, 535 Media launched millennial-focused website Upgruv. Pittsburgh Trib and some Upgruv staffers are currently housed in the D. L. Clark Building, 503 Martindale St.
“I believe we will continue to have a presence here. Right now, we have two and a half floors. I don’t know that that would be warranted going forward,” Bertetto said, adding that she intends for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review to continue to be located in Allegheny County.
Upgruv and the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review have “completely unique audiences,” she said.
How publishing will work
Allegheny coverage will continue to be hosted online at TribLive.com and will be featured in a “free electronic publication.”
Bertetto said the online edition of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review — which will continue to be called that — will make sense for mobile, tablet and desktop viewing and be “more visually appealing” and interactive than what currently exists: A PDF version of its print newspaper, the eTrib. Features like crosswords will be interactive.
Trib Total Media will use a vendor and reveal the new offering in late November.
The online edition — initially a mobile website and an app for Apple and Android by the end of the year — will update throughout the day, Bertetto said.
It will be completely free, she said. Users will be asked to share their email addresses to receive alerts that the day’s content is available. Advertisements will support the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
“What I’m banking on is developing a critical mass using the free edition. When you have a critical mass, we can sell online advertising,” she said.
She said the eTrib was well-received when it was free, with about 15,000 to 17,000 people logging in. When it became a paid product, it maintained only about 10 percent of its readership.
“What we learned from that is there is a lot of money to be made from advertisers as opposed to readers,” she said.