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Layoffs Hit AOL, CNN

With 400 jobs already sliced at CNN, the company will lose an overall 3 percent of its 85,000-strong staff. 

Company spokesmen say the job cuts are meant to reduce redundancy after America Online purchased Time Warner for $106 billion Jan. 11.

Layoffs are most prevalent at parts of the former Time Warner, although 725 jobs are being axed at AOL — 300 of those at the company’s former headquarters in Dulles, Va.

“In no area are we cutting into the muscle of the company,” Ed Adler, an AOL Time Warner spokesman, told The Los Angeles Times. “We need that muscle to grow and compete. These changes will sharpen our focus, capture synergies for growth and strengthen the integration of our company.”

Time Inc. is losing 400 employees, mostly from the closing of an Alabama operations center and cuts at a Time-Life direct marketing office in Alexandria, Va.

New Line Cinema, also owned by AOL Time Warner, is laying off 20 percent of its workforce. One hundred employees will receive pink slips there.

Meanwhile, the Warner Bros. movie studio will also lose 100 employees. Its Entertaindom.com Web site, which features offerings from Warner Bros. movies, music and television on the Internet, will be merged with the larger studio Web site. Another 100 jobs will be cut at the studio’s corporate office.

Time Warner’s music group is planning to cut 600 positions, mostly through early retirements, attrition and contract buyouts.

Along with yesterday’s staff trimming comes word of a possible closing of 130 Warner Bros. theme stores, taking all 3,800 employees off the job. Adler told the Associated Press the company is hoping to sell the stores, but will close them if a sale proves impossible — laying off another 4 percent of AOL Time Warner’s total staff.

On-air changes at CNN

Management at all-news cable network CNN started naming names Tuesday, announcing the departure of several members of the network’s on-air talent as part of an overall reorganization effort.

CNN management said last week it planned to eliminate 400 jobs from a staff of 4,350. The cuts began Monday and are expected to continue throughout the week.

Among those leaving the network are Jim Moret, who anchored the network’s O.J. Simpson trial coverage from Los Angeles in 1995, and Gene Randall, a Washington-based anchor who spent 17 years with the network.

Both men were offered reassignments to the company’s headquarters in Atlanta, but declined them, network spokeswoman Christa Robinson told the AP.

“As CNN Chairman Tom Johnson has said, the employee review process has been exhaustive and at times painful, but we are confident it will result in a stronger CNN better prepared for future growth,” she said.

Moret told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution he was leaving the network on positive terms.

“To be honest, we’re parting as friends,” Moret said. “I feel they respect me, and I’m thrilled to have been a part of CNN.”

But other CNN employees took issue with the network’s layoff process. Christie Reff, a videotape editor who spent 16 years at the network told the Constitution Tuesday the network’s offices had the “mood of a funeral home.” Reff was laid off Monday.

“It was like an assembly line,” she said. “They sent you up to the 11th floor, and somebody was there with a checklist and a pen. They pointed you into an office, and there was your supervisor and somebody from human resources. They said, ‘You’re no longer employed, here’s your folder and so-and-so will explain your benefits.’ They ask for your ID. ‘You can go back to your desk and get your stuff, but get out.’ You’re picking your jaw off the floor.”

The network had extra security on hand in its Atlanta offices Monday and Tuesday, as is common in large corporations during major layoffs.

Among other on-air faces leaving the network are Washington-based anchor Sonia Ruseler, business anchors Bill Tucker and Tony Guida, correspondents Carl Rochelle, Chris Black, Dan Ronan, Greg Lefevre, Greg LaMotte, Charles Zewe and Jim Hill, and Detroit bureau chief Ed Garsten.

The network told reporters it will offer job counseling and other services to laid off employees next week.

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