The year has not started well at U-T San Diego, which has reportedly begun layoffs, a cut in benefits and the indefinite end of one of its major promotional programs.
The bad news began New Year's Day, when the U-T told its employees it could no longer contribute matching funds to their 401(k) contributions. The newspaper — which halted its pension program several years ago — had been matching employee 401(k) contributions to up to 3 percent of the value of their salaries.
Over the next two days, there were up to several dozen layoffs at the newspaper, affecting the advertising department as well as the UT-TV news outfit, according to some of the laid-off workers.
Attempts to get confirmation or comment from U-T officials — including Editor Jeff Light and President John Lynch — were not successful.
In the meantime, the U-T summarily ended its U-T Rewards program, a heavily promoted program for readers to register their debit or credit cards at a secure location on the newspaper's website in return for discounts and other awards from participating merchants.
"U-T Rewards will be suspended indefinitely…," read a notice on the newspaper's website. "Your U-T Rewards account will be disabled and any rewards balances you have on your account will no longer be available for redemption. We apologize for the short notice."
The notice said that the newspaper intends to re-evaluate the program and come back with a new and improved version later, but added that "there is no set date for the return of U-T Rewards."