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More on Baltimore Sun layoffs

The Baltimore Sun yesterday laid off at least 15 editorial-side staffers, including the copy desk chief and a deputy managing editor.

A reporter called the layoffs “unprecedented” at the Sun because of the number of people asked, at one time, to essentially leave the paper against their will.

 Until this point, said general assignment reporter Gus Sentementes, the cutbacks at the Sun have come mostly in the form of buyouts, “so that, at the end of the day, they were essentially ‘voluntary.’”

“The people who remained, remained because they wanted to do the work, because they’ve been in the profession for years, because they can’t do anything else,” said Sentementes, who is also a volunteer for the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild. 

When those people were told to leave yesterday, he said, “it was very emotional.”  
* Baltimore Business Journal and Daily Record coverage here.
* John McIntyre’s farewell on his blog.
* Editor & Publisher article saying “the exodus of editors is expected to reach 20.”
* For David Simon’s comments on his Facebook page, read on.

Sun staff knew the layoffs were coming, but the announcement still left many in shock, perhaps also because of the brusque manner in which longtime editors and reporters were literally shown the door.

“All editors were told to leave the building immediately. A security guard was stationed on the skywalk between the building and the employee parking garage,” according to dcrtv.com.  

The list of laid-off editorial-side employees includes:

Chief of the copy desk, John McIntyre,  Deputy Managing Editor Paul Moore, Editorial Page Editor Ann LoLordo, Op-Ed Editor Larry Williams,  and editors and reporters on the metro desk, sports desk and other areas. The bureau chiefs for three bureaus that have been eliminated over the past year (Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Howard counties)  were also laid off.

According to a source, editor Monty Cook addressed the staff about the layoffs late in the day.

“He expressed regret, and said the move was forced by declining ad revenues at The Sun, and not within Tribune at large,” the source said.

No return call yet from management, as employees wait for the other shoe to drop – the rumored elimination, next, of some of Guild-covered positions.

This just in from David Simon’s Facebook page:

“[I am] revulsed at what has happened at the Baltimore Sun this week. i really don’t know who Monty Cook is or what he stands for as the editor in chief, but before I asked the likes of Ann LoLordo or Eileen Canzian to leave the building — people who given their working lives to that institution — I would scratch together enough integrity to refuse and be fired my ownself.

It’s almost unfathomable. The Baltimore newspaper’s only plan is slow suicide, with Chicago leeching the last nickels and dimes even to the moment when they shutter the doors. Never has an industry so willingly butchered itself or shown its own product such contempt.”

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  • Jennifer Bishop

    Would it be better if, faced with such choices, Baltimore’s only remaining daily in print chose to shut down entirely? This is sad news, but the only thing sadder would be if everyone jumped ship. Maybe those who remain feel the responsibility to keep publishing however they can, because a city without a daily newspaper is just too wrong. Of course, I rely on the Brew for new energy, but I’ll keep my subscription to the Sun till the bitter end, if only to support my belief in the value of a newspaper to hold businesses, institutions, and legislators accountable. I was laid off from the News American in 1981…my life continued, but the sad part is that the News American is now a parking lot.

  • Antero Pietila

    Let’s face it. The Sun as an institution is dead. What remains is a nameplate that a bunch of vandals from Chicago is using to turn out a steadily shoddier and shoddier product. What I don’t understand is the deliberate decimation of the whole property. The weekly Patuxent newspapers have been reduced to monthlies, etc. This is nothing but strangulation.
    Monty Cook, whoever you are, hope you save pennies. Because one day soon they’ll pinkslip you.

  • t mitchell

    It has been “McPaper” for some time now.

    A daily cut and paste of AP or articles from out of area journalists with 2x the ad’s versus content.

    This should prove devastating for the morale of those left standing.

  • Editor

    This from Heather Dewar:
    There is only one American industry with less vision, less common sense, less self-respect and less respect for its customers than the Big Three carmakers: the newspaper industry. I’ve been watching my profession self-annihilate since the early 1990s and I’ve seen some shameful “management ” in that time, but I’ve never witnessed anything stupider or more callous than what Monty Cook did yesterday. The 15 people savagely “laid off” at The Sun are people that any good newsroom manager would have moved heaven and earth to keep. Instead literally hundreds of years worth of journalism experience and institutional knowledge was force-marched out the door.

    I have worked with most of these people, and one of them, Patricia Fanning, was my first editor at The Sun. In a 26-year newspaper career, I’ve worked with some wonderful editors – none of whom worked harder or smarter, or with more skill, passion and devotion, than Patricia. I know the same is true of practically everyone on this list. These folks are experts in local, state, national and international politics and government; sports, science, technology, and medicine; newsroom management, page design, the English language, and online journalism. I guess these are all subjects The Sun no longer plans to cover.

    Newspaper people are far from cynical. If anything, they’re a bunch of cock-eyed idealists. They believe that an educated public will choose wise leaders, correct grievous wrongs, sympathize with the misunderstood, revel in the triumphs of the gifted, and reach out a hand to the suffering – not all the time, but often enough to make a good newspaper an essential part of a good community. That’s why so many newspaper people work 12- to 18-hour days, weekends, and holidays; risk their lives for a story or a photo; work round the clock through blizzards, floods and hurricanes; surrender simple pleasures like dinner with the family or an after-work class; give up their own right to sign a petition, campaign for a candidate or march for a cause; or answer a ringing phone at 2 a.m and within minutes, begin reporting the story on their way in to work.

    The 15 people who were so brutally discarded have, between them, done all of those things many times. They believed in The Sun’s motto: Light for All. Unfortunately, The Sun’s top executives did not believe in them. Apparently they don’t even believe in “the product.” You have to wonder if they believe in anything at all.

  • Editor

    Many former Sun editors and reporters have spoken up with fond recollections and high praise for some of the departing Sun people….

    This from Candus Thomson:
    “Over 20 years here, I worked for Patricia Fanning in three sections of the paper, Business, Metro and Sports, and she was by far the finest line editor this paper had. She was a reporter’s editor, who stayed as late as you did, fought for your words when higher-ups sought to remake them in their own image and made sure every piece– from photos to graphics to headlines–showcased your work.”

    And this from Tim Wheeler:
    “I second Candy’s eulogy for Patricia. She was my editor for several years in the ‘90s. She is meticulous and caring, not just about your copy but about you personally. I’d add a similar tribute for my most recent editor, Eileen Canzian, for and with whom I’ve worked for years. She has a keen eye for getting to the nut of a story, and a fierce dedication to saying it just right. She’d fight for your story, and for you. I mix my tenses here, out of denial. They’re no longer here, but they haven’t lost those traits that make them great journalists.”

    And this from Jon Morgan on Patricia Fanning:
    “absolutely. Nothing got past her in copy and she could spot a logical hole a mile away from a story. But she remained a humanist of the highest order – as evidenced by the way she quietly took care of people in need, including colleagues with medical and other problems. Generous and kind.
    And I’m not just saying that because she hired me!

    “Fern, these were some of the best journalists in the business – and some of the best people I know. The paper has survived cutbacks and the loss of key people in the past. But this many all at once is heart breaking.”

  • Editor

    And still more on Sun layoffs, this from a former Sun/Evening Sun reporter/editor Ernie Imhoff:
    “After 28 years as an editor in Sun/Evening Sun management, I was assigned to be a reporter again in 1996. It was a splash of cold water. I was extremely lucky to get Patricia Fanning as an editor for my non-profits beat. She made the reverse transition one of my best experiences in newspapering. Sharp, smart, occasionally annoying, always caring. The three years reporting with her helped lead in my retirement to two maritime books and a just completed 37-minute DVD “A Beautiful Ship”. Thanks, Patricia.
    The other day, as I quick-hobbled around Druid Hill Lake with my cane (after eight-vertebra 2005 spine surgery), Eileen Canzian whizzed past in a running race and shouted out a quick greeting to me. Boy, that pepped me up. She and Patricia and many others did the same thing in the newsroom. Thanks.
    We’ve always been most lucky to know the newspaper skills and good natures of the many Sunpapers editors we’ve called friends. We wish them all the best.”

    And still more, this from a former Sun/Evening Sun reporter/editor Ernie Imhoff:
    “After 28 years as an editor in Sun/Evening Sun management, I was assigned to be a reporter again in 1996. It was a splash of cold water. I was extremely lucky to get Patricia Fanning as an editor for my non-profits beat. She made the reverse transition one of my best experiences in newspapering. Sharp, smart, occasionally annoying, always caring. The three years reporting with her helped lead in my retirement to two maritime books and a just completed 37-minute DVD “A Beautiful Ship”. Thanks, Patricia.
    The other day, as I quick-hobbled around Druid Hill Lake with my cane (after eight-vertebra 2005 spine surgery), Eileen Canzian whizzed past in a running race and shouted out a quick greeting to me. Boy, that pepped me up. She and Patricia and many others did the same thing in the newsroom. Thanks.
    We’ve always been most lucky to know the newspaper skills and good natures of the many Sunpapers editors we’ve called friends. We wish them all the best.”
    fern@baltimorebrew.com
    Editor
    http://
    1

  • Editor

    One more, from Frank Roylance:
    I worked with Patricia for a number of years. My copy would come back plastered with her boldface, redface or all-caps edits. It was always a shock, an ego-deflater. But as I worked through them, I immediately saw what she was up to. She was almost always right, and by the time we were finished, the stories had always been improved, and I told her so. She was always sharp, she “got” what was cool, or interesting, or important about a science story. And she battled for them in meetings. Most important of all, she managed to do it all and remain a warm and genuine human being. What a loss.

    And another comment, this from Frank Roylance:
    I worked with Patricia for a number of years. My copy would come back plastered with her boldface, redface or all-caps edits. It was always a shock, an ego-deflater. But as I worked through them, I immediately saw what she was up to. She was almost always right, and by the time we were finished, the stories had always been improved, and I told her so. She was always sharp, she “got” what was cool, or interesting, or important about a science story. And she battled for them in meetings. Most important of all, she managed to do it all and remain a warm and genuine human being. What a loss.
    fern@baltimorebrew.com

  • Jim Keat

    For once I’m speechless.
    Jim Keat

  • Antero Pietila

    Great tributes, well deserved. It is kind of interesting that this gripping dram occurs on Barack Obama’s 100th day, another link to the incredible structural change that we are confronting in this country and world. Helen Dewar referred to the newspaper industry’s arrogant incompetence as exceeding even the auto industry’s. I think that arrogance grew out of highly commercialized nwspapers’ perpetuation of all the First Amendment stuff, mythical or not. But there are plenty of other perhaps less incompetent industries and economic practices. They all have to change, if America is to be great again.
    I treasure every issue of The New York Times, a blessing that hopefully lasts longer than othes. But I am realistic enough to acknowledge that the future belongs to some Kindle type device and a news product that the reader largely tailors according to individual interests.
    If The Sun’s death throes indeed presage some new electronic news product, good luck with that. Do you really think that the newspaper industry in general and The Sun in particular can compete with far more imaginative and visionary outfits. With reporters and editors gone, they don’t even own the local franchise any more.

  • Bob Thomas

    To their credit, the Tribune management finally did something so royally stupid that it might do some good. While they were slowly, painfully cutting the Sun staff before, the number of laid-off people was always small enough that it prevented them from creating meaningful competition (though baltimorebrew and investigativevoice are well on their way to filling that role).

    With 40 people laid off simultaneously, however, there’s almost no way to imagine that a subgroup won’t create a strong, civic-minded and financially viable local blog — something that reports as a primary source, liberated to do those “six-part series” pieces that Monty Cook thinks are dead.

    With literally more than 100 good journalists now laid off in the Baltimore-Annapolis area, I’m looking forward to seeing baltimorebrew, investigativevoice and at least one other blog turn into the next generation of watchdog reporting. Is it sad that the Sun is dying? Yes.

    But I’m incredibly happy that original, independent reporting of the sort that newspapers once dominated will live on online in publications run by former newspaper staffers. This asinine move by Tribune virtually guarantees it.

  • Editor

    From former Sun and Evening Sun writer David Cohn:
    Patricia Fanning was one of the hardest working, most thorough editors I ever worked with. No question, no subject matter, no personality swayed her from making sure a story was as clear and readable as it could be — which made her the perfect editor for med/sci. I worked with her on deadline many times and was amazed at her persistence and knowledge.

    Steve Auerweck could figure out just about any technical or computer glitch that arose in the newsroom, no matter what time of day or night. And if he couldn’t solve it right away, at least he eased the situation with his wry humor (I remember something about pickled turnips, but the details fade). What made him even more valuable was the fact that he was familiar with all the different parts of the newspaper, and he understood how each one of us depended on the other.

    John McIntyre towered in copy editing and was a national leader in defending and advancing the craft. (I attended a convention of the American Copy Editors Society once and saw how highly regarded he was all around the country.) He was articulate, knowledgeable and fair, and he was a wit. When his Sun masters axed him, they got rid of their chief defender against libel, bias, muddy writing, bad headlines, confusing graphics and captions, and language and typographical errors. Though he was given the bum’s rush, John held his head high. Read his farewell post at http://weblogs.baltimoresun.com/news/mcintyre/blog And then, for good measure, click on one of his joke clips.

    I’m very sorry these and all the others were let go, and I hope they get back on their feet soon.

    The cuts leave a huge responsibility on those who remain at the paper. I don’t envy them, but I will appreciate their work even more. I wish them the best.

    Dave Cohn
    (Eve Sun 27 years, Sun features 10 years)

  • http://ettlin.blogspot.com David Ettlin

    Reading all these eloquent tributes to my former cellmates at The Baltimore Sun’s central asylum, after working 10 hours on a blog posting about the massacre on Calvert Street, leaves me emotionally spent. It has been the hardest day for me since my voluntary buyout nearly two years ago… I left when I was ready. My friends who were still there have gotten kicked out. And journalism in Baltimore has been horribly diminished.

  • Dave Cohn

    Probably should point out that I was a copy editor and slot, not a writer, for all those years at the Sunpapers. I did write many things, but they didn’t come with bylines.

  • James Williams

    The Sun is dead. It has been killed off by a number of factors that the staff had no control over.

    The best thing to do now is for it to go out of print – go away.

    Each day that The Sun shows up on my door step just reminds me of what a fine paper it was – back in the day…

    Stop printing it and let it die a respectable death.

  • Frances Levy

    Bring back the little man with the sign! Just change one letter: Now e can stand on the sidewalk in front of the Sun building every evening during rush hour, proclaiming “SUN DIES”

  • Ed McDonough

    As one who toiled in the ‘burbs during my 10-year career at The Sun (1986-1996), it was painful to watch the long slow demise of a once great newspaper — the nearly annual buyouts, the almost as frequent redesigns, the descision to cut back on zoning to focus on state, national and international news, only to eliminate national and foreign reporting because it was too expensive. Every week, a different trend. The Sun changed direction almost as many times as the Baltimore Police Department has changed anti-crime strategies over the last two decades. But this last batch has been too much to take. I think of the fellow Carroll County employees who wound up in the cross-hairs this time — Ellie Baublitz, Peggy Cunningham, Mark Fleming. And then the publisher has the nerve to say The Sun will have the same number of employees covering news around Maryland after one-third of the staff is terminated. I know we in the newspaper business usually aren’t good with numbers, but that represents fuzzy math worse than anything a public official has tried to foist on us. Godspeed to all of the slaughter victims.

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  • http://france-menk.com France Menk

    It’s been a long, long time since I worked at the Sun. It was a time burned into my heart; a time of power and passion for the truth, no hold barred. This latest bleeding of the Sun’s foundation brings that time to mind as a powerful reminder that it is the people who make the paper. These people will go on with their ‘fire in the belly’…their compulsion to seek the truth and bring it forth. They will not let us down in their mission to expose injustice, to ask important questions that others may not have the perspicacity to ask, to seek answers that others may not have the courage to go after. A free press is the result of a free mind. The Sun has let that go. Make your conclusion.

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