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updated: 12/21/2012 7:46 AM

Sun-Times to close suburban offices

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The Sun-Times Media Group said Thursday it will close its suburban offices and consolidate much of its staff at its flagship office in downtown Chicago.

Editor-in-Chief Jim Kirk issued a memo Thursday that said the suburban operations were "too small to continue to function" as separate entities. So editors and production teams from Aurora, Glenview, Gurnee, Joliet, Merrillville, Ind., and Tinley Park will move to downtown Chicago, while reporters will be mobile in the communities they cover. The Naperville Sun and The Courier News in Elgin, now operating out of the Aurora newsroom, also will be based in Chicago.

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Kirk said the company needs to move toward operating more digitally. He also wants the company to share more content among the publications and have the staff write for multiple platforms.

"A lot of our challenges are rooted in how we are structured physically," Kirk said in his memo. "We are too small to continue to function as completely separate entities, especially as our resources have been sharply reduced over the past few years."

Kirk declined to say how much money will be saved or how many workers would be affected.

The moves should be completed by the end of the first quarter, he said.

While job cuts also were not discussed, the door was left open to eliminate redundant positions, Kirk said.

The Sun-Times Media Group includes the Pioneer Press based in Glenview, the Beacon-News in Aurora, Naperville Sun, The Courier News in Elgin, The Herald-News in Joliet, Lake County News-Sun in Gurnee, Post-Tribune in Merrillville, Ind., and the Daily SouthtownStar in Tinley Park.

Robert Feder, a columnist with TimeOut Chicago magazine and a former Sun-Times columnist, broke the story Thursday.

A similar action was taken a few years ago by the Journal Newspapers in suburban Washington, D.C. but that group was later acquired by Clarity Media Group, owners of the San Francisco Examiner, said newspaper analyst John Morton, president of Morton Research Inc. in Jessup, Md.

"To diminish your presence in the very markets you are trying to serve is not a good move," Morton said. "These are usually the steps taken by a company that's struggling financially."

Still, Kirk aims to have the restructured staff provide content for all readers across all platforms, including the web, apps, email newsletters, blogs and print.

"I think it's extremely important that reporters work in their communities. That doesn't change," said Kirk. "I don't believe readers care where an editor sits. I listen to readers, not analysts."

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