PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is offering buyouts to its newsroom employees in an effort to avoid layoffs.

But the result is the same – a major reduction in staff, this time with the most senior reporters and editors likely to accept, and the quality of the paper likely to suffer.

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“Those are the people who know the beat the best, those are the people who have the contacts in city hall and the Department of Education, everywhere you can think of,” says Anthony Moretti, a journalism professor at Robert Morris University. “So you’re losing that institutional knowledge.”

The bleeding is likely to continue. This is just the latest round of cutbacks despite a recently signed contract with the paper’s unions aimed at avoiding them.

In an email to the staff, the Newspaper Guild said the company “once again believes that weak revenue and a difficult advertising climate have created economic conditions dire enough to require thinning the newsroom.”

The situation is similar at the Pittsburgh Tribune Review.

In an ongoing court battle, the heirs of late billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife claim their father subsidized $140 million in losses incurred by the Trib and other newspapers he owned.

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“I think the writing’s on the wall,” says Moretti.

Moretti says the Trib and the PG are family-owned newspapers, which are being passed on to new generations less likely to accept these continuing losses in the face of declining readership and ads.

“There’s something fundamentally broken that might not be able to be fixed,” Moretti says.

But for its part, the Post-Gazette is trying. They’ve just bought new state-of-the-art presses and the newsroom is in the process of moving from its Downtown building to new offices on Pittsburgh’s North Shore. All of that speaks to a long term commitment.

But the slow bleed can’t go on forever and if revenues don’t stabilize, the question of whether Pittsburgh becomes a one newspaper town will only become a question of when.

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