— Seattle P-I union to the rescue?: As the clock ticks down on whether Hearst will sell, fold or turn its Seattle Post-Intelligencer into a digital-only property, the paper’s union is considering making a buyout offer of its own. The Pacific Northwest Newspaper Guild is trying to see if enough members would be interested in supporting a bid for the Seattle P-I. A union rep didn’t say how much money the guild would be willing to put up. Hearst could have a decision on the paper’s fate on March 18.
— Washington State Papers seek stimulus: While newspaper industry observers often joke darkly about a “newspaper bailout” from the feds, Seattle Times publisher Frank Blethen and Scott Campbell, publisher of The Columbian have asked their Washington State’s Senate Ways and Means Committee for a 40 percent tax cut on the business and occupation tax on newspapers through 2015. The publishers admit that a tax cut won’t save them, but it could save more jobs from layoffs.
— Scripps cuts pay, 401(k) matching, freezes pension plan: A memo from EW Scripps (NYSE: SSP) President and CEO Rich Boehne tell employees to prepare for more belt-tightening, just in time for the company’s dismal Q4 earnings. He promises better days ahead for the paper’s employees, but for the foreseeable future, days will be long, hard and pay a little bit less. While senior execs took a pay cut ranging from 5- to 15 percent last month, it appears that a “broader” pay freeze will go into effect, involving lower-level staffers. The company is also suspending its pension plan and 401(k) matching.
— Media General orders mandatory unpaid leave: The publisher of the Richmond Times-Dispatch and 23 other dailies is taking the path trod by Gannett (NYSE: GCI), MediaNews and individual papers like the Seattle Times. Unpaid furloughs are becoming a regular feature of newspapers’ cost-cutting arsenal, after waves of layoffs and buyouts have failed to keep costs within budgets. Citing the weakening ad market, Media Gen is calling for staffers to take 10 days off between next month and September. The schedule requires four days by the end of March and three days each in the Company