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Advance Publications Inc. said Wednesday that it is laying off 60 employees at newspapers it owns in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, including 34 at New Jersey's largest newspaper, the Star-Ledger of Newark.
Star-Ledger Publisher Richard Vezza said the layoffs were the result of a weak economy and an advertising downturn made worse by Superstorm Sandy.
Unlike other Advance papers, such as the Times-Picayune in New Orleans, the Star-Ledger was not contemplating cutting the number of days its printed edition comes out to reduce costs.
Vezza said part of the reason for not cutting the number of print publication days was to stand up to tough competition from newspapers from New York, such as the Daily News and The New York Times, as well as papers in New Jersey, such as The Record and Asbury Park Press.
"We're in a very competitive market here," Vezza told The Associated Press. "It's just not something that I've really contemplated."
Vezza told the Star-Ledger that he has been talking with its production unions, whose contracts expire this summer, seeking significant savings in production costs. He said the Star-Ledger is considering the possibility of outsourcing printing and delivery.
The newspaper had an average weekday print circulation of 184,474 in the six months through September, down from 201,603 a year earlier, according to the Alliance for Audited Media.
Though it had never previously had a mass layoff, the Star-Ledger has significantly cut staff in recent years through buyouts and attrition. In 2008, about 150 newsroom employees agreed to buyouts. The newspaper said there were 195 people working in the newsroom before the latest cuts were announced.
The layoffs by Advance include 12 at The Express-Times in Easton, Pa., 11 at the South Jersey Times and three employees at a group of weekly papers that operate in central and western New Jersey.
Content from those publications is put for free online at NJ.com. Hundreds of newspapers across the country have erected so-called "pay walls" that require readers to pay for online access, a strategy that also protects the value of a print subscription.
Richard Diamond, an executive with Advance in New Jersey, said he couldn't say whether NJ.com would restrict free access going forward, saying that the website was a separate operation.
Randy Siegel, Advance Publications' president of local digital strategy, did not immediately respond to a question about what would become of online access to NJ.com.
Advance Publications is a newspaper group owned by the Newhouse family.