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The Roundup

New Tulsa World Publisher Announces Layoffs, Other Changes

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Posted 07.16.13

The Tulsa World announced yesterday a “reorganization plan” that will result in the loss of 50 jobs “over the next several months.”

According to staff reports, “Twelve positions were eliminated immediately in the Administrative, Information Technology and Production departments.”

Tulsa World Publisher Bill Masterson, who replaced Robert E. Lorton III after Warren Buffett’s BH Media Group bought the paper in February, said: “We looked at all of our expense streams and made some hard choices that will allow us to be as efficient as possible in the future.”

At the time of the World’s purchase, Terry Kroeger, the CEO of BH Media Group, told Wayne Greene “decisions about how the Tulsa World will run—what it will look like, the editorial stances it takes and the stories it decides to pursue—will not be imposed from the company’s Omaha headquarters.”

Masterson took the helm last month. He’s also BH Media vice president of Southwest Region.

Yesterday’s report didn’t specify which departments impending layoffs would come from, but it did say “nine of the Information Technology positions being eliminated at the World will transfer to BH Media with those employees maintaining their residences in Tulsa.”

The last big round of layoffs at the World saw 29 of the paper’s editorial positions eliminated in 2009.

Masterson promised “a more dynamic media company because of this restructuring.”

In addition to the layoffs, there will be changes in the paper’s distribution and software systems, according to the staff report. Today, the World released an editorial by Masterson that further detailed changes coming to the paper. “We will have new technology experts that will be trained and informed about cutting-edge services and where the next ‘new product or process’ is being developed,” Matserson wrote.

And he outlined changes coming to the paper’s opinion pages: “[Y]ou will see an editorial page that is loaded with opinion from columnists on both sides of the issues. The paper’s editorial position will reflect the community in which we serve.” On Sunday, long-time editors Janet Pearson and David Averill wrote farewell columns after announcing their retirements from the World.

(That announcement, penned by Randy Krehbiel, noted, “Averill knows the World’s editorial pages are often criticized for being ‘too liberal’ for Oklahoma, but he said he doesn’t think he’s particularly liberal.”

The other big change coming to the World, according to Masterson: “Soon, commenting on tulsaworld.com will be available to all (subscribers and non-subscribers) but those comments will be treated just like Letters to the Editor. All commenters will be required to use their real name and town.”

Of course, the majority of comments on the editorial were from anonymous users vowing to cease their (often venomous) interaction once forced to reveal their identities.

UPDATE (posted at 10:45 a.m. July 17): Bloomberg Businessweek pointed out that the World is just the latest Buffet-bought newspaper to announce layoffs and other changes. “Berkshire announced the closing of the Manassas News & Messenger last year after the Virginia paper failed to sustain profits,” the site reported. “The Greensboro News & Record in North Carolina, acquired by Buffett in January, announced this month the elimination of 14 full-time positions.”