The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review will produce its last print edition and become a free, digital-only publication, the paper’s parent company announced Wednesday.
Print operations will cease Nov. 30. The company's Pittsburgh newsroom will continue publication online from its North Shore offices led by senior editors Luis Fabregas, Jeremy Boren and Rob Amen.
Trib Total Media completed its second round of employee buyouts last week. Officials said Wednesday 95 staffers with five years or more experience accepted. An additional 106 full- and part-time employees are being laid off.
“We had hoped that the moves we made last fall would be enough to stabilize our financial position, but it simply wasn't enough,” President and CEO Jennifer Bertetto said. “Like other news organizations, our company faces an intense financial reality that compelled us to make additional changes. These changes, although difficult, are necessary to ensure our long term viability. I am incredibly confident in the direction our organization is heading.”
— TribLIVE.com (@TribLIVE) September 28, 2016
In an announcement to employees, Bertetto said the company will increase staff and other resources devoted to the Westmoreland and Valley News Dispatch editions. She said the goal is "to bolster the local news and sports coverage that have made those newspapers so successful."
“Our Westmoreland and Valley News Dispatch readers are loyal to these newspapers and we want to give them even more of the local coverage that will keep them coming back every day,” Bertetto said.
Fábregas said the digital operations will focus on areas that have distinguished the Trib from its competitors, including politics, technology, health and breaking news.
“Our goal is to embrace innovative storytelling methods while staying true to our journalistic roots,” Fábregas said.
Most eliminated positions announced Wednesday will impact the publisher’s Newsworks printing facility in Warrendale, company officials said. The cuts will also affect some newsroom positions, and a number of existing employees will be reassigned to other offices.
The stoppage is the latest in a series of steps the company has taken to distance itself from its print division following the death of publisher Richard Mellon Scaife in July 2014. 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.
"Our plan to sell these newspapers is part of a larger strategic growth plan that the board of directors has developed over the course of the past year," Jennifer Bertetto, Trib Total Media's CEO, said at the time.
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 before the company’s announcement Wednesday.
Several Pittsburgh Trib employees have already been acquired by Trib Total Media's sister organization, 535 Media, which includes its millennial-targeted site, Upgruv. Bertetto said last year 535 would “encompass the Trib’s digital, multimedia and other website operations.”
It has since acquired a 40 percent share of Newsmax, a Florida-based online news publication, that Bertetto told the Trib would allow the company to broaden its “local and national reach.” She announced Sept. 15 the company would work closely with South Korea-based Inven Communications through its newly hired director of innovation, Donald Marinelli.
Losing the Tribune-Review marks the end of an era in Pittsburgh.
With the print edition's departure, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette will become the only widely circulated daily newspaper left in the market. Pittsburgh has been home to at least two printed daily newspapers dating back to the mid-1800s.
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review was a relatively late entrant to the larger Pittsburgh market.
Prior to the early 1990s, it was a regional paper serving only Westmoreland, Indiana and Fayette counties under the still-existing Greensburg Tribune-Review banner.
A union strike in 1992 prevented the city’s two major newspapers at the time, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Pittsburgh Press, from publishing. That work stoppage opened the door for Scaife, who began publishing a Pittsburgh edition of his Greensburg newspaper.
Block Communications, owner of the Post-Gazette, purchased the Press from Scripps Howard near the end of 1992. The company, however, opted to not resume the Press’s publication when the union strike ended. Since then, the Post-Gazette and Tribune-Review have been the city's only daily newspapers.