(Editor’s note: This story has been updated to make a correction and a clarification.)

The roles of Dwane Powell, an award-winning editorial cartoonist, and Ted Vaden, the public editor, have been reduced to part-time as part of continuing cutbacks at The News & Observer.

Publisher Orage Quarles III confirmed to WRAL.com in an interview Tuesday that the N&O veterans would work on a limited basis.

“You have to look at the whole picture, not just parts of it,” Quarles said when asked about why the changes were made in two of the newspapers’ most visible positions. “I had to make decisions about what our needs are not only today, but in looking forward. That’s the gist of it.”

Asked if either was offered a buyout rather than a reduction to part-time, Quarles said, “I’d rather not get into that.”

Quarles also said that the N&O was continuing to review its staffing needs.

Powell is part of a team led by Editorial Page Editor Steve Ford. The group reports directly to Quarles, not to Executive Editor John Drescher, who oversees the newsroom. Vaden reports directly to Quarles. An earlier version of this story said Vaden reported to Ford.

The newspaper offered buyouts to about 40 percent of its workers, including all full-time newsroom employees earlier this month. The deadline to accept those buyouts was Sept. 17. That offer followed a round of layoffs in June. The action involving Vaden and Powell was not part of the recent actions. Vaden said his status was changed in June, not as part of recent actions at The N&O.

Multiple sources told WRAL.com that 16 newsroom employees accepted the buyout, including Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Pat Stith. The paper reported his retirement.

In a recent memo to the staff, Quarles had warned that if enough employees did not accept the buyouts, layoffs would follow. At least one journalist was laid off Monday, sources told WRAL.com.

“I really won’t be able to answer that until tomorrow,” Quarles said when asked about the number of employees taking buyouts and how many layoffs will be made. “Everything finalizes tomorrow.”

Contacted by WRAL.com, Powell declined comment. The reduction in his role was first reported on a Web site that is devoted to coverage of editorial cartoonists across the country.

Powell, who skewered politicians of both parties with the late Sen. Jesse Helms as a major target, has decided to remain with the newspaper through the election, that site reported. He has worked at the N&O since 1975.

Powell’s work is syndicated and distributed by Creators Syndicate. He won a National Headliner Award in 1978.

In an interview, Vaden said he would continue in his role as public editor, or ombudsman, a position he has held for nearly four years. Vaden deals with concerns raised by readers and often critiques N&O news coverage. He writes a column that appears on Sundays.

“It’s true my status has changed to three days a week,” he said. “I plan on staying here for the foreseeable future.

“I regret the loss of a full-time job, but I’m pleased that the N&O has seen fit to have a public editor,” Vaden added.

The fact that the position was not cut entirely as it has been at numerous other newspapers shows that Quarles “values the position highly,” Vaden added.

Vaden has worked in various roles for the N&O as an editor. He was publisher of its Chapel Hill newspaper for 13 years, and launched a newspaper targeting senior citizens.

Quarles acknowledged that Powell and Vaden are well-known N&O personalities.

“They are institutions,” he said. “Dwane and his cartoons are just legendary. Some people wake up and the cartoons are a real headache for them. For others, they create a great deal of laughter. That’s what cartoonists do.

“Ted’s role has been one of the real value-added features,” Quarles added. “He’s pretty straightforward. He understands the business, and he’s a great listener.

“We’re very proud of them. They are just fine individuals, but I can say that about a whole lot of N&O employees.”

The reductions are the second mandated this year by McClatchy Newspapers, owner of both the N&O and The Charlotte Observer.

McClatchy is cutting 10 percent of its work force under growing Wall Street pressure as it seeks to pay down $2 billion in debt in the midst of a slowing economy. Falling real estate, auto and classified advertising have cut deeply into newspapers’ profits across the country.