The sad reality of the newspaper business is hitting The Roanoke Times. The paper is offering buyouts to 21 longtime employees.

Reports today’s Times:

"Like the media industry as a whole, we’re taking steps to reinvent our company to remain relevant to our existing customers and to seek out new customers in new markets," said Debbie Meade, president and publisher, in an email announcement to employees. "We’re dealing with business conditions unprecedented in our long history."

Advertising revenue at The Roanoke Times, similar to newspapers across the country, has declined. It’s due mainly to competition from other news and media sources, such as the Internet, said Nan Mahone, marketing director at The Roanoke Times.

"We’re spending more than what we see we will be making in the future," Mahone said.

Landmark Communications, based in Norfolk, owns The Roanoke Times.

The Roanoke Times already has eliminated or frozen 27 jobs in the last year, said interim human resources director, Jean Lamkin. The incentives are being offered to 21 full-time employees who are older than 58 and have at least 15 years of service. Their incentives package includes six months compensation based on 2006 wages, a bridge benefit for Social Security payable at age 62 and a $2,400 benefit enhancement. These incentives are an addition to the employees’ regular pension benefits.

All have been notified by mail and will have until Aug. 23 to decide whether to accept the offer, Lamkin said. The majority of the people eligible for the early retirement option work in the company’s production departments, such as the press room, she said.