WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Washington Examiner will stop publishing a six-day-a-week newspaper in June and 87 employees will lose their jobs as it becomes a weekly magazine and online publication, the newspaper's parent company announced Tuesday.
The free tabloid, which launched in February 2005, will eliminate coverage of local news, sports and entertainment, according Clarity Media Group, its Denver-based parent company. A company spokeswoman said 87 editorial and business employees will be laid off, while 38 staffers will be retained. The new publication focused on national politics will hire at least 20 new people, the company said.
The Examiner is popular with riders of the Metro transit network, where it's widely distributed, and known for aggressive coverage of local crime, politics, education and transit. Reporters often used the paper as a steppingstone to more established publications. The editorial page is right-leaning, reflecting the conservative politics of Clarity Media Group's billionaire owner, Philip Anschutz.
Clarity closed its Examiner newspaper in Baltimore in 2009 and sold the San Francisco Examiner in 2011. It still owns The Gazette in Colorado Springs, Colo., and The Oklahoman in Oklahoma City.
Clarity Media Group president Ryan McKibben said the company had conducted research over the past year and decided to shift its focus to meet demand. He said departing staffers should be proud of the work they've done.
"We have accomplished a great deal over the past seven years, as we built The Washington Examiner into a credible and respected brand in a very competitive market," McKibben said in a statement. "The strong foundation we established with the website and daily newspaper presents us with the opportunity to shift our focus and meet a pressing need in the political content marketplace."
Kytja Weir, who covered the Metro transit agency for the paper, said staffers had no idea their jobs were in jeopardy until they were told Monday afternoon to attend a Tuesday meeting at the downtown newsroom.
"I think it's a sad day whenever I hear about layoffs in journalism," said Weir, who is on unpaid maternity leave. "Obviously, it's sad for all of us and my colleagues. It's never easy to find out the job you love doing is not going to be there for you."
Two local political reporters were asked to join the new national publication.
The daily Examiner will continue being published until June 14. A redesigned website will go online June 17, and the weekly publication will debut on June 20. The product will offer news, analysis and commentary on national politics and policy, and its targeted readership will be roughly 45,000 professionals in government, public affairs, advocacy and academia, Clarity said.
The laid-off staffers will receive severance packages in addition to drawing paychecks for the next three months.
"To their credit, they didn't shut it down immediately," Weir said. "All things considered, they handled it as professionally and courteously as they could, given the situation."
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