Media analyst John Morton says layoffs and page reductions could spell disaster. "A lot of the steps that companies are taking now are the very wrong steps to take," Morton cautions. "You're cutting news staff and the news hole, you're making the paper smaller and thinner and covering less, and that affects the two major assets that newspapers have: brand name and standing. They're the two things that newspapers will have to use to try to succeed on the Internet, and they're undermining themselves at every step."

The guild's contract with Lee does not expire until June 5, 2009, but business rep Duffy worries more layoffs are around the corner. On August 24, the union voted unanimously to enter into early bargaining with Lee. Both the guild and Lee will bring five or six issues to the table, with job security being the guild's number-one concern.

Negotiations are expected to begin soon and could last several weeks. It is the first union contract to be negotiated since Lee took control of the newspaper. If no agreement is reached, says Duffy, the parties will start from scratch next spring.

As to the current mood in the newsroom, several staffers sum it up as "resigned." Says Bill McClellan: "I think the changes are all kind of shortsighted, but all I can say in our defense is they're happening everywhere."

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