News Corp.'s 'The Times' to Cut Editorial Jobs Ahead of Company Split

Rupert Murdoch
Rupert Murdoch
 Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

LONDON -- The Times, one of the flagship British newspapers of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., is laying off 20 editorial staffers in a cost-cutting move ahead of the conglomerate's planned split later this month.

The move, which affects less than 10 percent of the paper's editorial staff, is seen as demonstrating the commitment of the future standalone publishing company to running businesses that make money. The Times has been losing money.

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John Witherow, the acting editor of The Times, announced the job cuts internally on Monday, saying that "the era of being subsidized is coming to an end," the Times itself reported.

A spokesman for News International, the U.K. newspaper arm of News Corp., didn't provide financial or other details. One observer suggested the cost-cutting move would help narrow The Times' losses a bit.

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News Corp. shareholders on Tuesday approved the company's plan to split into entertainment company 21st Century Fox and the new News Corp., which would house the firm's newspaper, book publishing, education and Australian TV assets.

Witherow told Times staff that the company wasn't planning to merge the editorial operations of The Times and The Sunday Times, citing commercial and editorial reasons, according to the paper. When News Corp. acquired The Times in 1981, it was required to keep the operations of the daily and weekly separate, but some industry observers have predicted the company would push for a change to that provision to combine some operations and cut costs.

News International's The Sun tabloid has been profitable. Until its shutdown two years ago, the News of the World tabloid, the focus of the phone-hacking scandal, also made money.

"For several years now, Times Newspapers has been losing money," Witherow said. "The company has tolerated this, because it could use profits from elsewhere in News Corp. to pay for our papers and because the proprietor has a passion for newspapers. I fear that era of being subsidized is coming to an end."

E-mail: Georg.Szalai@thr.com
Twitter: @georgszalai

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