By Pat Loeb

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Today was the deadline for employees of Philadelphia’s two major daily newspapers to decide whether to resign in exchange for a buyout payment.

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The company that owns the Inquirer and Daily News says it wants to eliminate 37 positions and will begin layoffs if not enough people take the offered buyout (see previous story).

Meanwhile, staffers are expressing dismay over one of the positions reportedly being targeted for elimination.

Philadelphia’s newspapers have been blessed with not one but two Pulitzer prize-winning editorial cartoonists, but soon they could have no cartoonists at all.

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The Inquirer’s cartoonist, Tony Auth, took the buyout, and sources say that Daily News cartoonist Signe Wilkinson was advised by management that she should, too, or face being laid off.

Wilkinson would not confirm the report but says she’s not taking the buyout.

“While I’m not taking the buyout, I am not sure what my position at the paper will be after all these cuts are made,” she said today.

The staff has rallied around Wilkinson, arguing that her unique voice is one of the paper’s chief selling points.

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Some have asked why the layoffs are even necessary since the company is now in exclusive negotiations with potential buyers who say they want to purchase the papers as a “civic duty” (see related story).