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Hearst makes offers to staff for online-only P-I

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[March 06, 2009]  SEATTLE (AP) -- Hearst Corp., owner of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, has made offers to some staffers to participate in an online-only version of the newspaper, the P-I reported Thursday.

An unspecified number of the P-I's 181 employees received "provisional offers" Wednesday and Thursday to work for the online venture, the newspaper said in a story posted on its Web site.

The paper, quoting two reporters, said the job offers would be formalized if a Web site is approved by Hearst's senior management.

Hearst announced Jan. 9 that it was putting the P-I up for sale and said that if it couldn't find a buyer in 60 days the paper would likely close or continue to exist only online. There has been no word on a possible buyer.

Calls by The Associated Press to Hearst spokesman Paul Luthringer were not immediately returned Thursday.

P-I Managing Editor David McCumber declined to comment. "I'd like this process to play itself out," he told the AP.

He said he did not know exactly when the P-I would cease publishing its print edition.

"I don't have a sense of that," he said Thursday. "There are a lot of moving parts, a lot of logistics, lots of things to be considered."

Permanent layoffs won't occur any earlier than March 18, P-I Publisher Roger Oglesby informed the state Employment Security Department in a January letter.

Hearst said in its January announcement that if it does become an Internet-only operation, the P-I would have a "greatly reduced staff."

Metro reporter Hector Castro said he received a provisional offer Thursday but declined it, saying the package wasn't good.

"They're talking about a small team of people working hard to make this a profitable venture," Castro said, adding that he didn't know how many people were offered positions.

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A number of staffers contacted by the AP declined to comment.

Sports columnist Art Thiel said Thursday he had not been contacted and that the news of a possible online venture didn't surprise him.

"They said they were thinking of online, now they're doing it," he said.

Since 1983, the P-I has shared business operations with its cross-town rival, The Seattle Times, in a joint operating agreement.

Under the JOA, The Times handles advertising, printing and other non-news functions for the P-I, so the layoffs at the P-I would only affect newsroom staff.

The P-I has a weekday circulation of 117,000, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

The P-I was founded as the Seattle Gazette in 1863. Hearst has owned the P-I since 1921, and the paper has had operating losses since 2000, including $14 million last year.

Hearst is a major media company that also owns TV stations, other newspapers and magazines including Cosmopolitan.

[Associated Press; By PHUONG LE]

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



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