Sun-Times trims Bill Zwecker, three others to half time

Bill Zwecker

Bill Zwecker

Starting next week, readers of the Sun-Times will be seeing less of fan favorite Bill Zwecker in the paper.

The veteran celebrity columnist and entertainment reporter is one of four Sun-Times staffers whose work weeks are being cut in half as part of the latest cost-saving moves at the financially troubled daily, according to insiders.

Zwecker’s column, which has been a prominent feature of the Sun-Times for 23 years, will appear only twice a week — Tuesdays and Thursdays — under the new arrangement. He’ll continue to contribute reviews, interviews and other features on a freelance basis.

The cutback follows last week’s redesign of the Sun-Times, incorporating editorial content from USA Today, including several daily pages of national entertainment news.

“I am looking at this as an opportunity to do some other kinds of things that I haven’t had the time or the ability to do because of my responsibilities here,” Zwecker said Wednesday. “For years I’ve wanted to write a book, and this will give me time to focus on a project like that. And there’s other kinds of writing that I’d like to do, too.”  Zwecker also will continue as an entertainment contributor to Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32.

Other staffers whose weekly hours were cut to 18.75 were transportation reporter Rosalind Rossi, sports reporter Steve Greenberg and entertainment editor Miriam DiNunzio.

Sun-Times parent company Wrapports LLC negotiated an agreement with the Chicago Newspaper Guild to forestall layoffs for six months at the paper in exchange for reducing up to six full-time positions to part-time ones. The moratorium on layoffs was approved one week after 15 Sun-Times newsroom staffers accepted voluntary buyouts.

Zwecker, a Chicago native and second-generation Sun-Times star (his late mother, Peg Zwecker, was the paper’s longtime fashion editor), said his editors were forthright about the change: “They went out of their way to tell me that this had nothing to do with my performance or my contributions to the paper or anything like that. It was strictly a financial decision,” he said. “They’re faced with some really challenging economic issues, and we all know about them. There’s no secret to that.”