Rifle editor among latest Swift layoffs

The owners of the Citizen Telegram in Rifle say that weekly newspaper will continue to be published despite the recent layoffs of its editor and a second employee.

The layoffs were part of another round of staff reductions at Garfield and Pitkin county newspapers by Swift Communications, which also owns the Grand Junction Free Press. The Post Independent in Glenwood Springs made a couple of newsroom cuts. The Aspen Times laid off three editors and a reporter, and a second reporter now is writing for the Post Independent, said the Times’ managing editor, Rick Carroll.

The Rifle layoffs, which included editor and general manager Mike McKibbin, leave Rifle City Council member Alan Lambert worried about the future of the Citizen Telegram.

“I would hate to see this community without a paper,” said Lambert, a former journalist himself.
Andrea Porter, publisher of both the Rifle and Glenwood Springs papers, said she’s confident the Citizen Telegram can keep serving the Rifle community.

Veteran local reporter Heidi Rice continues to write for the paper, and Porter said it will continue to maintain an office in Rifle, but is looking for a new office space.

Late last year, Nevada-based Swift closed down the Valley Journal weekly newspaper in Carbondale. A nonprofit group since has created a new weekly there, the Sopris Sun.

Swift also has shut down weeklies in Leadville and Vail, and a Spanish-language Western Slope paper, and made other recent layoffs in Glenwood Springs and Aspen. It also has sharply reduced staffing at the Free Press and cut its publishing frequency from five days a week to three.

McKibbin said he thought the Rifle paper was “making real positive strides.”

“We were putting out a good product every week. Just the way the economy is, especially in the newspaper industry, it’s just not good right now. I’m sure that was the main reason, the only reason we were let go,” he said.

The Daily Sentinel hasn’t been immune to the recession in general or the struggles in the newspaper industry in particular. Through a mix of attrition, layoffs and reduced overtime, it has reduced staffing from 180 full-time equivalents in September to 160 at the end of March.

The Aspen Times has suffered partly from lost ad revenue due to the resort real-estate-market slump.

“That and the newspaper business in general, I think, and the economy, where it is right now,” Carroll said. “It’s a much different world right now than it was two years or even a year ago.”


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