There’s nothing like being the subject of news stories to give an editor the perspective of those we interview and write about.

It is easy when reporting news to miss some of the finer points that would make a story more precise. And, sometimes, the story is reported accurately but the facts get muddled when it’s rehashed in conversation, emails and the many casual and truncated ways we communicate these days.

When a news organization is the focus of a story, as happened to us at MaineToday Media last week, it’s a good reminder of some of the pitfalls of our business.

Last Tuesday, we announced a voluntary separation program for our employees at The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram. It’s not a simple decision to take what’s called a “buyout,” but the program itself is simple. Employees tell us they would like to leave and if we accept them into the program they get a severance package.

Severance at our company can amount to as much as 32 to 40 weeks pay. The average for those who take a package like the one offered last week will probably be around 25 weeks, nearly a half-year’s worth of compensation.

Once we know the number of employees interested in leaving, we will evaluate the long-term economic effect on our company and decide a future course of action. There is a likelihood that layoffs will be necessary.

The reason for this decision was stated at the time the buyout program was announced, but somehow the story took a different twist as the news worked its way through the media and into the community. Although the phrase “declining revenues” appeared in several news stories, I heard from readers later in the week who said they were sorry our “circulation is dropping so fast.”

Neither our announcement of job reductions nor any news accounts that I’m aware of mentioned circulation losses. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Our paid circulation has stabilized since our 2009 purchase of the Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, the Kennebec Journal in Augusta and the Morning Sentinel in Waterville. Our declining trends were among the worst in the newspaper business two years ago but now are among the best.

We’ve stemmed the losses and we are reporting growth in several areas of paid circulation.

And while we have been making successful inroads in paid circulation and readership numbers, our Internet/online audience has skyrocketed.

Online numbers for our three daily and Sunday newspapers combined are the highest in the state. Our website at the Press Herald is the most popular and widely read media site, newspaper or television, in the state.

We have just begun a new business called MaineToday Digital to build and monetize that online market and those large audiences. We have created more than 25 new full-time positions in the digital company and leased new office space.

So, why would we be looking at downsizing?

No business wants to find itself in a position where it’s necessary to eliminate jobs, especially in an economic environment in which all too many people are out of work. Unfortunately, that environment has left our company, as it has so many others, with no choice but to reduce our payroll. These are uncertain and troubling times in Maine and in the nation; difficult choices and painful decisions are required.

Most of our revenue comes from advertising sales. Our sales locally are holding up nicely and even showing increases in some areas, but our national sales have been hurt significantly over the last six months.

Simply put, even though we are seeing growth in some areas, we are not immune to national trends. Our goal is to look ahead, try to predict where the economy is going and do our best to protect these valuable news and advertising businesses that are essential to our regional and state economy.

We still have the largest news gathering and advertising staffs in the state and we will continue to maximize this advantage to serve the interests of our customers.

All businesses, in Maine and around the country, are watching nervously as we try to rebound from a struggling economy. But watching is not enough. There are times when we must take prudent action to stay ahead of the economic curve, which for now points downward.

That’s the real story here.

Richard L. Connor is CEO of MaineToday Media, owner of The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram. A newspaperman for 40 years, he has served on two Pulitzer Prize for Journalism nominating committees. He can be reached at:

[email protected]