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Union-Tribune staffers who fear that their financially-staggering newspaper will one day resemble a shopper got little encouragement today (Friday). Editor Karin Winner, in meetings with staffers, confirmed what has been rumored for several days: that Chris Lavin a senior editor, will begin reporting to Gene Bell, president, instead of Winner. Lavin will be expected to create sections that generate revenue, such as the current obituary and passages sections, in which readers have to pay for content. Already, the paper puts out slick special sections with limited distribution, devoted to pets, health and other subjects. Some staffers say that news coverage will be contoured to fit advertising objectives, and fluff will increasingly supplant hard news coverage. There is concern that other parts of the paper will report to Bell and not to Winner. Bell has already said that the ink-and-paper and electronic editions will be merged. That is a move that is long overdue, but he has not given more details. Today, Winner also announced staff moves that involved changing some titles and responsibilities on the ink-and-paper side.

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Comments

Don Bauder Feb. 16, 2008 @ 7:04 a.m.

Response to post #1: As I have related in prior posts, the demise of the ink-and-paper product is a sign of changing demographics, technology, etc. The U.S.'s decline in its economic rank among the world's nations was inevitable, and peripherally related to the decline in our interest in the written word. Our rotting education is as big or bigger a problem. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Feb. 16, 2008 @ 7:09 a.m.

Response to post #2: I doubt Lavin and Winner are considered co-equals. The concern among staffers is how many areas of news will be shifted to Lavin, who will reportedly be over arts and entertainment. Why should those areas report to somebody on the commercial side of the enterprise? A publication written and edited for the advertisers instead of the readers may not last long. I understand that Winner has correctly fought this arrangement, although that is a rumor. Best, Don Bauder

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Anonymous Feb. 16, 2008 @ 12:32 p.m.

For all the UT admirers out there, a bit of history:

From the inimitable Burl (yes that's really my name) Stiff, and his inside account of King David's 2006 trip to Europe...

"They stayed at Hotel Baur au Lac in Zurich, and had a late supper in Rive Gauche there after the Christo show. (Singer Tina Turner was another patron of the restaurant that night.)"

Fellow San Diegans, everybody, please join me in a moment of visualization of what actually happened that night...(*cue creepy music)

You're in a swanky Zurich restaurant. It's opulent beyond your imagination. Try a imagining just a bit harder. I'm talking super duper extra special uber-opulent here, got it?

Okay. Tables filled with gorgeous discerning people, glasses tinkling, all but a single back corner lit brightly. Although there are strange grunts and squishy noises now and then from the patrons in that dark corner, few notice because they are watching to see who arrives this special evening.

In struts the one and only Tina Turner, owner and occupant of the most fabulous legs in world history. It's reverent and hushed, except for the noises in the corner.

Tina is beaming and in her natural element, greeting the diners with a quiet nod and a smile. As she scans the room, acknowledging her many admirers, you see her clearly enjoying the adulation that she so richly earned.

Then it happens.

There's a tic...then a tremor...she cannot look away...her face freezes. Her lip curls down, eyes open, nostrils flare, she's staring.

Is it a multi-car pile-up, combined with a helicopter crash, complete with a decapitated baby that has thuded into the dark corner of this Zurich restaurant? What does Tina see?

She has transformed, in an instant, from a chirpy leggy knockout, to a gruesome zombie, jaw quivering. It's clear to everyone in the restaurant, that she is far too scared to scream.

Your eyes turn, slowly, reluctantly, to the previously unnoticed back corner. A shocked gasp fills the room.

Chairs scrape and fall over. Glasses are knocked to the floor, shattering. Nobody minds the broken glass in their haste to escape. Coats are abandoned. Tina Turner's security team, shaking loose their own stupification and horror, hustle her away to a bullet proof limousine and squeal away into the night.

I cannot go on, my friends. It's too gross and disgusting to continue, even for me. It is simply not possible to describe the horror of what Tina Turner saw that night.

Leave it to say, that only a man of the gastronomical fortitude of Burl Stiff could endure such an encounter, possibly even sitting at the same table, and survive to tell the world about it.

You'll simply have to ask him for any further details.

Please, you must excuse me now...I'm not feeling so well.

(yet another sdblogger)

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Anon92107 Feb. 16, 2008 @ 2:46 a.m.

Don, as you have been reporting for years, this gives new application to John Donne's poem for emergent occasions "For whom the bell tolls, It tolls for thee."

By coincidence, yesterdays LAT had a sidebar in a Front Page story "Stanton named editor of the L. A. Times" tolling for downsizing at NYT, LAT, Chicago Times, SDU-T, Detroit Free Press/News, and OC Register.

And guess what, Stanton is mandated to merge LAT print with latimes.com as the third editor of LAT in less than three years.

It's going to be an interesting, but sad ending to an era that I started getting upset about when LAT and U-T stopped using high school delivery kids on bicycles, especially since I had been one myself for the Times in San Pedro when I was a kid, and a former U-T kids delivery manager had been Scoutmaster for my own kids. There goes the community.

There might as well be an obit for the entire “American Way of Life” that had been created after WWII when America truly was the Greatest Nation on Earth as industrial, agricultural, etc. producer for a world that had been totally changed by worldwide wars. Who would have dreamed that Korean, Viet Nam and Iraq wars would lead to China becoming a world power that America created by outsourcing our manufacturing, expertise and jobs!? Are we becoming “Brave New World,” or “1984” or something totally unforeseen to be reported by some pixilated “reporter” on a Dick Tracy wristwatch version of iPod?

Our generation really screwed up everything Don. I sure hope The Reader's X & Y generations are learning from our unforgivable failures by going to the polls in the greatest numbers ever this year to create one more "Change" for the better to save what is left.

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Anonymous Feb. 16, 2008 @ 6:44 a.m.

So Lavin, like newslady Winner, reports to Bellboy. Does that make them co-equals? Back in '99 I-Dream-of-Genie Bell brought in a guy named Rich Peterson to oversee new products (such as SignOn). Peterson had been editor at the North County Times and was blessed with an office on the UT's majestic and mysterious Fifth Floor, home of Helen, Gene and Herb Klein. Peterson came to the UT with the understanding that he would have equal power as Winner to shape editorial content. He soon found out otherwise. Lavin beware. Peterson's tenure came to an end shortly after he announced at the quarterly "Manager's Dialog" that the UT would open an office just outside Horton Plaza ... and a TV station grabbed that particular real estate days later.

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Anonymous Feb. 16, 2008 @ 12:35 p.m.

Back on a serious note, now is a great time for former UT writers and other staff to come forward and tell their stories.

It ought to liven up the elections a bit, eh?

Just what did advertising head Gary Moore do when he "sat in on news meetings"?

Seems to me that the separation of advertising and reporting was not much honored at the UT.

Thank you,

(yet another sdblogger)

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Don Bauder Feb. 16, 2008 @ 1:01 p.m.

Response to post #5: That's hilarious. And so true. There are bitter divisions within the U-T, particularly between the print product and the electronic side, which heretofore have been separate. Any outsider stepping into this hornet's nest is going to get stung. The two sides have to be integrated, but lord help the people assigned to do the integrating. Best, Don Bauder

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Anonymous Feb. 16, 2008 @ 11:39 a.m.

HELP WANTED Systems Integration Specialist

Our client, a large San Diego publishing and online media company, requires Systems Integration and Content Management System (CMS) experts.

The client requires the integration of legacy systems to bring its print and online operations into harmony.

This is an extended contract, and only qualified applicants shall be considered. Do not apply if you do not meet the following requirements:

  1. You must be able to bedazzle technically unsophisticated executives with incomprehensible jargon and exaggerated promises. (Note: They have never heard of XML.)

  2. You shall be expected to participate in a public announcement of the beginning of the project.

  3. All your efforts shall be doomed to failure due to a lack of executive understanding, resistance from the many employees you must make redundant, and an overwhelming cultural bias against change and innovation. After six months to a year, you are to announce success and then slink away.

  4. Although you shall be paid handsomely, it will all eventually end in extended lawsuits that we project shall outlive the client.

(Note: If you are a young, fit, outgoing male with a prep school background and an "open mind", you may be particularly well suited to proposing your services to senior decision makers in this organization, and may extend this contract into a semi-permanent relationship -- please attach a photo with your application.)

Please apply online at www.signonsandiego.com, at our convenient mobile recruitment office on board the yacht "Happy Days", or in person at the Union Tribune.

Good luck!

(yet another sdblogger)

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Anon92107 Feb. 16, 2008 @ 12:31 p.m.

Response to post #3:

Don, having compared the U-T to really good newspapers for decades believe me it is more than “decline in our interest in the written word,” it‘s the deranged rant editorial style they have used to mesmerize their lemming constituency, moronic rhetoric they have assassinated America’s Finest City with. And the most recently outrageous political consequences are their production of three of America’s worst-case scenario U-T Puppet-Mayors in a row.

So the U-T Editorial Board is the root cause of the newspaper’s decline, and their legacy is that they did hellacious harm to San Diego, such as excessive firestorm deaths and property losses due lack of resources because of larceny of public funds by the U-T establishment. Winner and Kittle have followed much to close for comfort in the editorial footsteps of Goebbels and Streicher by destroying the future for their own readers.

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Don Bauder Feb. 16, 2008 @ 1:11 p.m.

Response to post #6: I agree that the U-T's editorials are generally amateurish trash, but I wouldn't blame the edit page for the newspaper's downfall. Look at the reputable papers that have good editorial pages now slashing employment: LA Times, NY Times, Chicago Tribune, etc. The U-T's editorials are not well read, hence wouldn't play that big a role in the collapse. A bigger problem is that you can't tell the so-called news stories from the editorials. The paper just isn't credible. Still, the main reasons for the paper's crash and burn are the societal ones: demographics, technology, the fact that young people don't read, even online, etc. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Feb. 16, 2008 @ 1:17 p.m.

Response to post #7: Magnifique. Such prose. I'm dying to know what Tina saw. Will Burl Stiff enlighten us? Or does he remember? Maybe Christo was sketching one of his abominations on the table cloth. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Feb. 16, 2008 @ 1:21 p.m.

Response to post #8: Great idea. We invite any ex-U-T employee to write of his or her experience. This is open to current employees, since people don't have to sign their names. Your second point: yes, the U-T really has never observed the line between editorial and advertising very strictly, but it could have been worse. Much worse. Best, Don Bauder

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Anon92107 Feb. 16, 2008 @ 1:51 p.m.

Response to post #10 Don, I really don't think "young people" today read and think any more or less than young people of previous generations. We have always had problems educating large numbers of young people with inadequate resources because of political corruption and incompetent administrators who do not support their teachers positively. I have known too many dedicated teachers with excessively high blood pressure because of incompetent administrators who do not support and protect them from destructive politicians.

Regardless of the school you send your kids to, if the parents don't take or have the time to go to their school officials and demand the best for their kids, their kids will more than likely be let down by the system. My kids received a great education in San Diego because we demanded it of them, their teachers and the administrators, but it was our responsibility to make the right things happen. It’s too damn easy for good kids to fall between the cracks in America and it has been that way for far too long. Too many people don’t understand the reality of making the right things happen for their kids. Bad education and poor student performance happens with ALL demographics.

Even the University of California has failed hideously to protect and preserve humanity because of the tenured welfare system that allows them to reach their level of incompetence and rot. We must teach our kids to make their own opportunities and make the right things happen for themselves because our colleges tend to graduate too many failed human beings, and there are far too many corrupt and/or incompetent politicians destroying the American way of life that prove the truth in that statement.

The main problem today is not the workers of America or our “young people,” it’s the leaders who are corrupt and/or incompetent that America is suffering most from today.

The bottom line is that all of our institutions have failed to provide adequate support for all of the “young people” of America for far too long. And the result of “No child left behind” is a tragedy.

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Anonymous Feb. 16, 2008 @ 2:01 p.m.

We all know what professional writers want and need to motivate them...

Cash.

Just like the X-Prize brought us to new heights in space travel, so I propose the Bauder Prize.

This prestigious award will be presented, at the end of this year, live on youtube.

It will go to the former UT employee who tells the citizens of San Diego the information most pertinent to deciding the 2008 elections.

This information does not have to be published in the Reader, this blog, or any other specific place...yet it must be widely and easily accessible to the voters of San Diego, and available in the future for verification of its long term impact.

The award ceremony shall be held after the November 2008 election.

If you have ever worked for the UT, please feel free to enter.

(Don't worry Don, I think we can hold a fund raiser to come up with nice a pot of money for this prize. Oh, by the way, you're disqualified from competing, okay?)

Former UT staffers, ladies and gentlemen, start your computers...

Ready?

Set?

...TYPE!!!

(yet another immodest proposal from yet another sdblogger)

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Anon92107 Feb. 16, 2008 @ 2:27 p.m.

Response to post #14: Right On sdblogger, Don and all survivors from the U-T who are "Free At Last!" with your integrity in tact.

For what it's worth, right now The Reader appears to be the only newspaper in San Diego with the highest standards of integrity, plus just as importantly, the right readership demographics that so far appear to be making the most signicant difference in the democratic primaries.

It is the newest X & Y generations that can make the most difference in America today if they are properly informed, disturbed and ignited enough to protect their own future into their own hands by voting at the polls in record numbers.

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Don Bauder Feb. 16, 2008 @ 3:21 p.m.

Response to post #13: I watched Barack Obama today make this very point: he said in a Wisconsin speech that parents had an obligation to insist that their kids get a good education, and to make sure the kids kept their noses to the grindstone. Most politicians don't talk that way: they don't want any voters to think that they have any personal responsibility in areas such as education. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Feb. 16, 2008 @ 3:28 p.m.

Response to post #14: You are asking former U-T employees to tell the public the important things that they willl never read in the U-T. Good idea. The U-T is guilty of sins of omission as well as commission. A recent example was the grand jury's report telling San Diego that the party is over: water must be conserved, development may have to be curtailed, etc. The U-T gave it a few short sentences -- perhaps 5 or 7. Such critical issues don't get in front of U-T readers, because the information might put pressure on the incumbent administration, which the paper is touting. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Feb. 16, 2008 @ 3:32 p.m.

Response to post #15: The Reader does reach a younger market. That is one of our strengths. We intend to keep giving this readership important information. Best, Don Bauder

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Anon92107 Feb. 17, 2008 @ 3:44 a.m.

Response to post #18: Re "The Reader does reach a younger market. That is one of our strengths. We intend to keep giving this readership important information."

Yes, but are they being disturbed and ignited enough to go to the polls in record numbers and vote out the corrupt and incompetent democrats and republicans who have done far too many wrong things for far too long?

For instance, my own congresswoman Susan Davis has been in the watch and do nothing but waste a seat in congress mode for far too long. She writes long newsletters full of B.S. because the country just keeps getting in deeper trouble economically, socially and politically while all she and the rest of the San Diego congressional delegation of good old boys/girls in both parties fail American Democracy.

Your “younger market” and the rest of us in San Diego can't afford to allow our current crop of corrupt and incompetent politicians to continue screwing up America and San Diego any longer.

So keep informing, plus exciting and igniting your readers Don.

Now that the U-T has crashed and burned The Reader is the only journalism left in San Diego with integrity and dedication to make the right things happen.

We must act as if this is the last election we have to make the right things happen to prevent chaos. Warren Buffett can only do so much to save America, and the subversive U-T establishment is negating the efforts of Aguirre and Frye to save San Diego so far.

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Don Bauder Feb. 17, 2008 @ 6:08 a.m.

Response to post #19: Note that this morning (Feb. 17), the Union-Tribune prints on its front page a New York Times story on credit default swaps. The story talks about how little-known these financial instruments are. My Feb. 6 column was devoted to credit default swaps, and featured a local expert, Frank Partnoy, and his writings on the subject. So the Reader was 11 days ahead of the U-T, and did its own localized story, rather than pick up one from the NY Times. We hope to continue staying ahead. Best, Don Bauder

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Anonymous Feb. 17, 2008 @ 10:34 a.m.

Don has a point on demographics and today's youth.

When I was young I watched Leave It To Beaver. That's where I learned some lessons and courtesy. Today kids learn it from Bart Simpson. That's where they learn to be rude and selfish.

I played outside and socialized with older neighbors too. They showed me their ham radios, wood shops and projects they were doing. Today kids that aren't running their skateboards on everything horizontal are sequestered in a room with a video game shooting at people or racing cars against fake police.

Today kids like to dress and talk as if they grew up in a ghetto. They think that is cool. They get ink and holes all over their body as expression but then need to laser it off to get a real job.

I could go on and on. But what I see changing in America as I get older is not forward progress by any means.

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Anon92107 Feb. 17, 2008 @ 12:44 p.m.

Response to post #20: Thank you Don.

At this point there appear to be more and superior investigative reporters at The Reader than are left at the U-T.

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Don Bauder Feb. 18, 2008 @ 3:30 p.m.

Response to post #21: You're young. When I was in first grade, I listened to the Long Ranger. With my family, I listened to Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy, Fred Allen, Jack Benny, etc. They were funny. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Feb. 18, 2008 @ 3:32 p.m.

Response to post #22: I hope you are right. Best, Don Bauder

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Anonymous Feb. 19, 2008 @ 1:37 p.m.

Rich Peterson was the head of the UT's "New Ventures," which turned out to be "No Ventures." His main contribution was SignOnSanDiego. When Roy Eugene Bell tossed Peterson overboard, he replaced him at SignOn with Marilyn Creason, the head of the UT Accounting department. "Say what?" was heard around Mission Valley. Creason soon quit to spend time with her new hubby (the UT, embarassed by her resignation, tried to couch it as an "early retirement"). Then came Chris Jennewein ... and if electronic is merging with the paper, where does that leave him?

By the way: remember those awful United Way campaigns where the executives of the UT were trotted out as vaudville acts? Newsdoll Karin Winner teamed up with HR Queen Bobbie Espinosa to warble a few karioke tunes.

Speaking of HR, at one point, from 1999 to 2001, the department did care about the employees and what they thought. This was under the auspices of Labor Relations manager Pat Marrinan. He knew that to keep a non-union environment two things were essential: treat employees respectfully and pay them a fair wage. And Pat was murder on managers who could not or would not treat employees in a professional and dignified way at all times and under all circumstances. Pat had a stroke in Feb. 2001 ... and HR Manager Ann Radosevich took the reins of employee relations. Disaster. You see, Ann grew up in the old UT environment where a manager could do no wrong. Shortly thereafter, que supresa, the packaging department organized. Employee Relations was summarily yanked from Radosevich and the UT hired a new employee relations manager. This new one left late last year, and, in the spirit of fiscal conservancy, was not replaced. Now heading up employee relations? Ann is back in the saddle.

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Don Bauder Feb. 19, 2008 @ 3:03 p.m.

Response to post #25: Creason was a bean counter and not an idea person. No argument there. Marrinan's stroke was most unfortunate, both for him and the company. I would like to know what happened to him. I heard a lot of complaints about Radosevich's handling of the buyout launched in early December of last year. The communications were ambiguous, and some suspected deliberately so to increase the number of people opting out. Mistakes large and small added to the confusion. Best, Don Bauder

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Anonymous Feb. 19, 2008 @ 3:55 p.m.

Marrinan followed the King & Ballou union-busting recipe:

  1. Fire all managers who might be sympathetic to unions (Helen Copley does deserve some credit here, as she was not prone to rolling heads on this issue).
  2. Bargain to impasse and make sure that merit pay is included in every proposal (unions find merit pay anathema ... once an employee keys off his or her supervisor for an increase, goodbye, union).
  3. Make sure that all non-union employees have significantly better benefits, including more holidays, vacations, medical, retirement, 401K, etc.
  4. Go without a contract for as long as it takes to undermine the potency of the union in the eyes of the employees. After a period of not having a contract, post terms and conditions of employment.
  5. Nail any "problem" managers who cannot treat employees in a professional and dignified way at all times and under all circumstances.
  6. When merit increases are approved, make sure that the best performers are well rewarded.
  7. Make sure that any re-hires are not sympathetic to the union.
  8. Ignore any union protests. "If you appear to care, you lose."
  9. Take every piece of employee discipline seriously ... make certain that HR knows about it in advance. Let employees know that HR has an open door to air greivances.
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Don Bauder Feb. 19, 2008 @ 4:53 p.m.

Response to post #27: The points that you make about King & Ballou definitely sound like the strategy that I heard that firm spouting, although I was never privy to inside top management information. Giving better benefits to non-union members was the bait used to get rid of the guild. It worked -- for the company, anyway. There is no doubt the company delayed and delayed on settlements, making the employees bitter. Copley has no one to blame but itself for the hostility of the pressmen. Making sure re-hires are not sympathetic to unions is an old King & Ballou/Gene Bell strategy. This worked against the company's interest in many cases. Whether or not the company really gave merit increases to the best employees is questionable. I sometimes observed the worst employees getting the merit bumps -- usually because of personal friendship, often very close friendships. I don't know that HR actually had (or has) an open door to grievances. I know of cases in which somebody who put forth a grievance immediately went on the feces list. Also keep in mind that for years the company destroyed every person who had been president of the guild. Being president was a one-way ticket to perdition, and some good people were ruined. Best, Don Bauder

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Anonymous Feb. 20, 2008 @ 9:34 a.m.

The Guild decertification had unexpected consequences for a lot of managers. In Ye Olden Days, managers were expected to behave abominably … much like former UT exec Brute Krulak. If a wronged employee beefed to the Guild, who cared? Then came the decert. And an inept manager might very well have found his or her career on the line. Keeping unions out was the overarching corporate mandate and the wisdom said that if employees are treated unfairly or in an arbitrary manner they will want a third party (union) to intervene. The HR department (out of strategy as much as any decency) suddenly played an unprecedented heavier role in restraining managers ... and was intensely interested (much to many editors' dismay) in the goings-on in the newsroom. HR was mandated by Gene Bell to smoke out "problem" managers and weed them out as needed. And the weeding process meant out the door, as demotion back into the ranks was not considered a viable option. The problem managers were not graded on their technical proficiency ... the real test was how they handled (or mishandled) the people they were responsible for. Karin Winner, for all of her lack of technical (editorial) ability, was a strong proponent of holding managers accountable for their behavior to subordinates. Again, this sense of doing right by the employees came to a screeching halt in Feb. 2001 when Pat Marrinan fell ill.

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Don Bauder Feb. 20, 2008 @ 10:45 a.m.

Response to post #29: Those are cogent observations. Even before the guild was decertified, the company began polling employees on their happiness or unhappiness with various aspects of operations. People commented on their bosses' handling of subordinates. One poll was particularly poignant; unfortunately, my memory is a bit hazy. l believe it was taken in the early or mid-1990s. Managers in the newsroom were asked to rate top editors. No one (and I mean NO ONE) gave top editors a good rating -- an embarrassment to the top editors as well as to the lower level managers who had rated them. Best, Don Bauder

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