Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Beginning of the end for the BJ as we knew it

This photo came on a black day in BJ history when more than 500 years of BJ experience (who knows how many years more before they got to Ol’ Blue Walls?) took buyouts and walked out the door.

Everyone is in black. No need to explain that.

The rapid demise of the BJ began in 2001.

Gone were sports columnist Tom Melody, chief artist Art Krummel, the copy desk’s Sandy Levenson, columnist Mickey Porter, Features Department editor Joan Rice, superb writer Bill Bierman, Reference Librarian Diane Lynch, copy editor George Davis, editorial board member Tim Hayes, Metro reporters Bill Canterbury, Bob Hoiles and Dennis McEaneney,

Mark Braykovich, reporter Barb Mudrak Galloway, columnist Steve Love, Jim Quinn, religion writer Laura Haferd and Terence Oliver.

In 2006 24 left with 335 years of service, including Bonnie Bolden, wife of today’s editor, Bruce Winges; clerk Barbara Albrecht, artist Dennis Balogh, reporters Gary Estwick and Mary Ethridge, columnist Diane Papparone Evans, copy editor Tim Good, reporter Andale Gross, copy editor Erin Hill, reporter Gloria Irwin, copy editors Jim Kavanagh, who went to CNN, and Jody Kraner, reporter Delano Massey, copy editor Kim Profant, reporter Tom Reed, photographers Robin Sallie and Lindsay Sample, food writer Jane Snow, reporter Kathy Spitz, reporter; Chiffon Staebler, copy editor  Debbie Stock Kiefer, editorial writer Sarah Vradenburg, reporter Judie Wallace and photographer Jocelyn Williams.

Newsroom managers laid off or took voluntary resignations besides Bonnie were Dave Wilson, David Hertz, Susan Kirkman, Michael Needs  and Debra Adams Simmons.

In 2008 there were 18 departures with 273 years of service, including city hall reporter Carl Chancellor, deputy Metro editor Keith McKnight, Metro editor Ann Sheldon Mezger, columnist David Giffels, cartoonist Chip Bok and classic music critic Elaine Guregian.

Since that horrible day in 2001, the BJ has lost more than 2,000 years of newspaper experience, most of it while at 44 E. Exchange Street.

I blame newspaper owners for not seeing the Internet for what it was, and not getting in on the ground floor with all the resources it had. Before they knew it, the Internet had savaged their classified income, which was 40% of their total income at some newspapers, and the machete to the personnel swung into action with horrendous results for democracy.

One of the stafffers in 2001 put it best:

“Will the survivors envy the dead?”

Others swept away the layoff avalanches in 15 years:

Design editor Mike Needs, deputy metro editor David Wilson and David Helmick, computer guy for the newsroom.

Artists Rick Steinhauer and Kathy Hagedorn.

It wasn’t unique to the BJ, of course.

600 were laid off in a single day at four Advance Publications newspapers in New Orleans and Alabama.

In 2012 Gannett offered buyouts for up to 665 newspaper workers.

In 2011 Booth Newspapers announced 543 layoffs.

In 2011 Gannett laid off 700.

Time Inc. cut 540 and 600 in successive years.

In 2009 McClatchy, stupid enough to buy the dying remnants of Knight-Ridder, laid off 1,600.

The Dallas Morning News, Providence Journal and Riverside Press-Enterprise laid off almost 1,000 in two layoffs.

Gannett eventually truncated 2,184 jobs.

EW Scripps cut 400 jobs.
In June 2008, 900 newspaper workers lost jobs in one week.

By 2009, more than 13,000 newspaper jobs were eliminated. And the dirge continues to this day.

Maybe I should list this under “obituaries.”

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