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Another shoe finally dropped at the Union-Tribune today (Jan. 15). The company posted a memo saying that it was informing 27 employees from throughout the company that their positions had been eliminated. Also, the company said that 18 artist positions in the advertising production operation would be outsourced later in the year. I was not able to reach company management. Employees do not know who has been laid off, so there is much consternation, because it is not clear that those whose heads are on the chopping block have yet been told. Early in December, the company said it wanted to eliminate 43 positions in the newsroom. Those getting in line early could get a buyout, and 29 took it. That left 14 newsroom jobs still to be eliminated. Presumably, they will vanish today.

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Comments

Don Bauder Jan. 15, 2008 @ 9:06 p.m.

Additional information: In his memo to employees, U-T President Gene Bell said that since the announcement of the employment-slashing plan in early December of last year, 135 employees have been separated or told that they would be replaced through outsourcing. That total comes to 10 percent of the workforce, said Bell. The program took only a month and a half. "Never in our history have we faced revenue losses as dramatic as those of the last 12 months," said Bell, explaining the "wrenching changes." I have heard rumors of some of the news employees that were cut; if true, they were some of the best. I can't reveal names until I have confirmation.Best, Don Bauder

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JohnnyVegas Jan. 15, 2008 @ 10:44 p.m.

Too bad that fat lazy trust funder of an owner didn't get hands on and lead (a la Ottis Chandler).

With better leadership they might have had a fighting chance. I hope they don't go BK.

Actually very sad.

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Don Bauder Jan. 16, 2008 @ 7:48 a.m.

Response to pot #2: Metro daily newspapers collapsed fast, and the U-T was slower than most to adapt to new realities. That's why it is doing more poorly than other metro dailies. Best, Don Bauder

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

With mediocre leadership and editing comes poor results. It’s doing so poorly because it’s not doing the job our founding fathers envisioned! Hell they included freedom of the press in the 1st Amendment to our Constitution because it was and still is that important! While others have towed the line and kept a watchful eye on the government, the PPWSDUT doesn’t really care nor wants to rock the boat. Yes it's true print media is a declining medium, but those who do the job, protecting the public interest and do it well will always be successful. The U/T lost its way five maybe 10 years ago and has not found its way back yet.

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Anonymous Jan. 16, 2008 @ 3:17 p.m.

Nice job on following and keeping up with this story, Don. It's heartbreaking that a lot of good people still work there, taking on more and more while having to worry about keeping their jobs. Meanwhile, the sacred cows of the newsroom can keep up the bad work. Sigh.

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Anonymous Jan. 16, 2008 @ 3:24 p.m.

Odd (or not so odd) that the UT is not chopping the heads of those most accountable for the decline -- Editor Karin Winner, Advertising VP Scott Whitley, and Circulation VP Bill Nagel. The people who are getting the axe did nothing to cause the decline in circulation and ad revenue. Why does I-Dream-of-Genie Bell continue to bet on the same executives? Only a new editor with free rein to radically re-envision the paper could help now.

By the way, where is David Copley's yahct anchored today?

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Don Bauder Jan. 16, 2008 @ 3:38 p.m.

Response to post # 4: The U-T is doing worse than other metro dailies, which are also doing poorly. One example: San Diego is the 17th largest U.S. market. The U-T's Sunday circulation is not even in the top 25 among metro dailies, and daily circulation is 23rd. The U-T suffers from the same factors hurting other metro dailies: youth not reading; ink-and-paper product not able to present timely news; online technology whipping newspapers in timely news dissemination; dumbing down of society, etc. One alibi: San Diego is more wired than many other markets. But these factors are not complete explanations of the U-T's collapse. The U-T's coddling of the local political machines, particularly Republicans; its ignoring of corruption, and its slanted news coverage have turned off a number of people in a City that is more Democratic than Republican. The paper has to adjust to new demographic realities. It may be too late. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Jan. 16, 2008 @ 3:45 p.m.

Response to post # 5: In the big personnel slashes of late 2006 and 2007/2008, the newsroom lost some of its best people. The product will suffer -- has already. Yes, top management, both in La Jolla and Mission Valley, has escaped. There is one rumor about a person who is mid-top management getting the knife, but I cannot confirm it. Not cutting anyone in top management is consistent with the company's mentality: for years, it has been a militaristic, top-down organization. Those at the top can do no wrong. Ideas do not flow from the bottom up, as occurs in well-managed organizations. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Jan. 16, 2008 @ 3:51 p.m.

Response to post #6: I doubt if there will be new management unless the company is sold. Some think the best candidate is William Dean Singleton, whose privately-held company owns such papers as the San Jose Mercury-News and Denver Post. Singleton has a significant presence in California. Historically, he has been a big cost-cutter. Management would certainly change. But I have no information that he, any other chain, a private equity group, or a rich mogul wanting ego massage is after the U-T. Best, Don Bauder

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Anonymous Jan. 17, 2008 @ 2:04 a.m.

I disagree with Don's premise that the U-T's political stance has much of an impact on its circulation. Politically active and aware people make up a small minority of local citizens. I'll bet many more readers are concerned about the presence of their favorite comic strip or Ask Heloise than whether Aguirre is getting gored on the editorial pages. Even if the paper's political views did have a significant impact on readership levels, moving to the left would surely alienate the right-wing readers up in North County that the paper is trying so desperately to woo. What the U-T needs is younger and more in-touch leadership. It reads like a paper written for people who are AARP-eligible. No surprise there: Is there a major editor who's younger than 55? But I will give them some credit: Their watchdog work has been great stuff. It's too bad that so few readers care.

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Don Bauder Jan. 17, 2008 @ 8:04 a.m.

Response to post #10: All along, I have tried very carefully to say that the U-T's main problems are the same ones afflicting other metro dailies. However, the slanting of the news, the smearing of Aguirre, the twisting of Frye's words may explain IN PART why the paper is doing so much worse than other metro dailies. I base that on lots of anecdotal evidence. You're right about North County: it's still Republican, and so it the county as a whole. But the split is close. The paper needs more balance. I don't know that the paper needs younger leadership, but it certainly needs more in-touch leadership. It covers and emphasizes the wrong things. All along, the problem is that decisions are made on who-is-friends-with-whom. The paper does readership studies and focus groups, and then ignores them if a disliked writer comes out well or an in-favor writer comes out poorly. Best, Don Bauder

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Anonymous Jan. 17, 2008 @ 9:06 a.m.

Can the UT even be considered a major metro daily anymore? Or is it more along the North County Times, kind of a minor metro?

PS Does news-socialite Karin Winner ever read these blogs?

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Don Bauder Jan. 17, 2008 @ 10:08 a.m.

Response to post # 12: I would say U-T is a major metro daily. In daily circulation, it ranks 23rd. In Sunday circulation, it is not even in the top 25, but it has to be close. I have no idea if Winner reads these blogs. I doubt it. By using the word "socialite," you raise a very good point. The Copley people have always been part of the La Jolla/Rancho Santa Fe Beautiful People. The Copley brass attend all the BP parties and then report it in their columns (Burl Stiff in particular.) First, giving this kind of space to BP parties, especially when you are featured in your own paper, is not only tacky; it is atavistic. The real problem is that the Copley brass have become to believe that what they hear at the BP parties reflects public opinion. Also, they are reluctant to step on the toes of the BPs. It shows. Best, Don Bauder

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Anonymous Jan. 17, 2008 @ 10:51 a.m.

fire burl stiff. He and his high ball upper crust have about 2 readers and one of those are senile. Who cares about the fancy galas about raising money for the poor and needy are HAVING your name or picture dropped in the article. Even those rich schmucks dont read this bird cage liner of a paper.....only when they are mentioned....hypocrites

down with the union

down with GCIU

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Don Bauder Jan. 17, 2008 @ 11:33 a.m.

Response to post # 14: With both Diane Bell and Burl Stiff schmoozing the BPs in print, the U-T devotes entirely too much of its precious and shrinking space to this very limited market. Best, Don Bauder

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Anon92107 Jan. 17, 2008 @ 12:35 p.m.

When are they going to fire the corrupt and totally incompetent bastards on the U-T Editorial Board who screwed up the U-T and betrayed the people of San Diego?

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Don Bauder Jan. 17, 2008 @ 1:39 p.m.

Response to post #16: My guess is that they will stay and have more latitude than ever. I have heard that Bob Caldwell, the editor of the Sunday opinion page, took the buyout, but I have not confirmed that. I would bet that William Dean Singleton, if he is interested in buying the U-T (and I don't know that he is), will root for the current editorial board to stay. The price would go lower. Best, Don Bauder

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Anonymous Jan. 18, 2008 @ 6:34 a.m.

Any word yet on who's heads were cut off? And not just in the newsroom?

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Anonymous Jan. 18, 2008 @ 8:30 a.m.

Don, You are always right on. You were the best thing about the U-T and now you're the best thing about the Reader. I sincerely thank you for all the years of excellence.

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Don Bauder Jan. 18, 2008 @ 7:59 a.m.

Response to post #19: I hesitate to give names without checking those people, but I can give some that I am quite sure of: David Elliott, an excellent movie reviewer whose intelligence unsettled his boss; David Washburn, a very good reporter, and Vincent De Palma (don't hold me to that spelling), who led tours of the building. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Jan. 18, 2008 @ 10:46 a.m.

Response to post # 20: There is a lot going on at the U-T and the public has a right to know about it. Best, Don Bauder

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Anonymous Jan. 19, 2008 @ 9:34 a.m.

Don, As I read through your blogs I notice 2 things. As a reporter myself, I am reminded that my job is much harder than yours, a columnist. As a reporter, I report facts. Facts that are checked and verified. In your columns, the only facts I see are actual documents put out by the company. Any time you site sources, it is wrong. Reporters get facts, columnist give opinion.

Your column also typifies the arrogant newsroom attitude we see at the UT and all newspapers. Your columns, regarding general layoffs, have given no human face to anyone else but newsroom people. There were other great people who unfortunately lost their job due to the downturn in the industry. Yet you dehumanize them with zero coverage.

Try giving others some face time in your next column. The rest of the company is just as important as the newsroom.

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Don Bauder Jan. 19, 2008 @ 9:56 a.m.

Response to post #22: If you are a reporter, and you claim to present facts, then I question how many columns of mine you have read. Mine are chock full of facts -- often too many, particularly when I get pontificating on the economy. Morever. these facts are checked carefully by several editors. You are correct that in covering the U-T collapse, I have concentrated most of my fire on the newsroom. However, if you go back, there has been a lot of coverage of the hostilities in the pressroom. And my reporting on the letters sent to employees in early December covered the entire company. Perhaps I should have given more space to head-chopping in circulation, advertising, etc. The trouble with that is the public is familiar with many newsroom names. It is not familiar with names of people in other departments. Best, Don Bauder

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Anonymous Jan. 20, 2008 @ 8:43 p.m.

Don, do you have a breakdown on the numbers? Like how many in the newsroom, office, H.R. maint. pressroom, electricians, building maint. mailroom, etc? A breakdown by department would be great. Thanks

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Don Bauder Jan. 20, 2008 @ 10:15 p.m.

Response to post of 8:43 p.m.: I have a breakdown of how many people in each department the company announced on Dec. 3 it INTENDED to hatchet, and I could give you that if you desire. However, I don't know how many in each department were actually chopped. I understand there were changes in the original intentions. Best, Don Bauder

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Anonymous Jan. 21, 2008 @ 12:56 a.m.

Sure, news folks sometimes forget there are other people who work for the paper. But this shouldn't be surprising. At a typical newspaper, there's not a lot of communication between, say, the newsroom and advertising or the pressroom. For one thing, there can be quite a difference between the types of people who work these various jobs. At my old newspaper, we thought the advertising folks -- with their loads of makeup, perfect hair and fancy cars -- lived the high life. We sure didn't. And the pressroom guys tended to be grizzled veterans of their business, not rookies fresh out of college. The problem is that when it comes time to organize, this differentiation can spell trouble because people don't have the cross-department connections they need to build solidarity.

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Anonymous Jan. 19, 2008 @ 4:24 p.m.

"The trouble with that is the public is familiar with many newsroom names. It is not familiar with names of people in other departments."

Oh, please, Don. The real trouble is that the newsroom is familiar with many newsroom names. The newsroom is not familiair with names of people in other departments.

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Don Bauder Jan. 19, 2008 @ 6:34 p.m.

Response to post of 4:24 p.m.: I agree that people in the newsroom are familiar with names of others in the newsroom and not familiar with names of people in other departments. I'm not sure what this has to do with my post. I said I followed the newsroom more closely because the names there are more familiar to the public, and the newsroom's products (the U-T and SignOnSanDiego) also are a known quantity, although that has been diminishing severely. The loss of a lot of well-known newsroom personnel -- particularly good ones like Craig Rose and David Elliott -- is of more interest to the public than, say, the loss of a salesperson in advertising. Best, Don Bauder

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Anonymous Jan. 27, 2008 @ 5:35 p.m.

Still no word on who's heads rolled? I noticed Bob Caldwell left the paper today. No big loss there.

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Don Bauder Jan. 21, 2008 @ 9:55 a.m.

Response to post of 12:56 a.m.: That was definitely a problem in the unionizing of the U-T and I am sure it has been at other papers, too. There was not enough cross-communication among union members from various departments. Best, Don Bauder

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Anonymous Jan. 21, 2008 @ 11:04 a.m.

Over-emphasizing the newsroom masks the fact that it is the organization as a whole that is collapsing, not simply the reporting staff. And none of the trims UT brass are making will do anything to stop declining readership and ad revenue.

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Don Bauder Jan. 21, 2008 @ 1:54 p.m.

Response to post of 11:04 a.m. I agree the slashes won't stop readership and ad revenue erosion. It will improve the meager profits, if there are profits. But there is no logical way that deep cuts in the staff will improve readership and bring in ads. It will do the reverse. Best, Don Bauder

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DavidGUrban Jan. 22, 2008 @ 2:02 p.m.

I just saw Anna Cearley's post about her leaving the Union-Tribune. She was one of my favorite writers at the paper. Too bad she is gone, but I'm sure she'll enjoy pursuing her masters degree.

Here is her post:

"Hello, everybody. I just wanted to send this email to let you know that I have left The San Diego Union-Tribune after being based out of Tijuana for the past seven years.

As some of you may know, the news business is facing increased economic pressures from a variety of factors, including competition from the Internet. I accepted a voluntary buyout opportunity in December and have since started a master's program in new media communications at the University of Southern California."

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Don Bauder Jan. 22, 2008 @ 5:48 p.m.

Response to post of 2:02 p.m.: Yes, Anna was good. The U-T lost some of its best people in the buyout, and then fired some of the other good ones later. Best, Don Bauder

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Anonymous Jan. 24, 2008 @ 11:26 a.m.

Don, do you know if Diane Bell left the UT? Her last story was on 11/22/07 and strll is on the SignOn San Diego website. It's sad becuase that "heard in san Diego" column was always a nice light entertaining piece of the news.

A paper is a synergy where the some is greater than all its parts... as the UT drops little out these parts, the whole is becoming less valuable to readers. I subscribed for over 20 years and don't anymore. There is no investigativebusiness reporting or deep local news. They are dropping the ball.

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Don Bauder Jan. 24, 2008 @ 12:46 p.m.

Response to post of 11:26 a.m.: I have not heard that Diane Bell left. Perhaps she is on vacation, although if her last column was Nov., 22, that would be a long vacation. I have not heard that she is ill. I asked sources if she was leaving, and they said she was not. I agree the paper is doing much less investigative busines reporting -- that has been true since I left almost 5 years ago. Coverage of local news is not deep, I agree. But the worst sin is that it is so egregiously slanted. It misses the big picture -- deliberately. Yes, all of these sins of omission and commission hurt the paper: that's one reason why circulation has been plummeting. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Jan. 25, 2008 @ 7:40 a.m.

I am now told that in a late November column, Diane Bell said she would be out until November. Best, Don Bauder

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Anonymous Jan. 25, 2008 @ 10:18 a.m.

Don, was that a slip.. you said Diane Bell would be "out until November." Did you accidentally repeat November and mean another month that she would be back?

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Don Bauder Jan. 25, 2008 @ 11:04 a.m.

Response to post of 10:18 a.m.: That's exactly what happened. Senior moment. She comes back in February, according to what she wrote in November. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Jan. 27, 2008 @ 6:50 p.m.

Response to post of 5:35 p.m.: Yes, I believe I mentioned Caldwell in an earlier post. I do not have a list of names. Best, Don Bauder

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Anonymous Jan. 28, 2008 @ 10:01 p.m.

I read over at the Voice that the UT doesn't even have a Content Management System (CMS). That's simply negligence.

I just finished a year-long contract where we put in an XML-based CMS, converted 12k pages in 800 documents including all embedded graphics, and produced on-demand multi-format print and online outputs. The only thing that took ingenuity was the templates and metadata. All the rest is a standard problem that lots of companies solve every day.

It's really not that difficult folks! It's also not very expensive or time consuming compared to the obvious benefits. What excuse could they have for not doing this years ago?

If Sign on San Diego and the UT can't get something so very basic right, how in the world can they hope to survive?

I feel sorry for the remaining employees.

(yet another sdblogger)

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Don Bauder Jan. 28, 2008 @ 10:39 p.m.

Response to post of 10:01 p.m.: Yes, I have been told by employees that U-T's online technology is lagging. Best, Don Bauder

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SDinMT Jan. 30, 2008 @ 2:58 p.m.

As a former UT employee who now lives in Montana, I am deeply saddened by the news of buyouts and layoffs. A friend who recently accepted the buyout alerted me to your blog and as usual, I find your information fair and accurate. Sure seems to me that many of the current problems began after the Newspaper Guild was voted out of the UT by the employees. I used to enjoy going back once in a while to visit my old friends, but they are all gone now. Living in Montana is great, but I do miss the Reader and Don Bauder.

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Don Bauder Feb. 1, 2008 @ 3:11 p.m.

Response to post of 2:58 p.m.: The Reader is online. A new issue shows up every Wednesday afternoon. I respond to the comments by readers of each of my columns. Then I have the blog, which features different items. I respond to all those comments, too. Both the columns and the blog are accessible at www.sandiegoreader.com. Best, Don Bauder

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Anonymous Feb. 11, 2008 @ 11:02 a.m.

Anyone read Richard Rider's broadside recounting the city informatoin blockade against the Reader -- specifically Potter and Bauder?

Contrast that with insider access for favored, and favorable, UT coverage. (Let's just ignore SD Metropolitan and its ilk, like everyone else with an IQ above room temperature.)

Yet, the UT is sinking like a downtown street with a water main rupture.

As the Voice points out, the Reader is buoyantly profitable. In fact, the Reader can derive revenue from a semi-retired business writer living half a continent away. The UT can't make money with a swarm of eager young sycophants.

Hmmmm. Maybe San Diegans are smarter than the well-heeled establishment think? We know how to evaluate the value of information.

2008 shall be a very interesting election year. It would be interesting to chart the collapse of UT influence and its replacement with online information sources.

(yet another sdblogger)

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Don Bauder Feb. 11, 2008 @ 7:18 p.m.

Response to post #45: I read Richard Rider's criticism of the Sanders administration's filter to make it difficult to get news, and its barricade against the Reader. Actually, the U-T has no such problems, because Sainz feeds garbage to Robert Kittle, editorial writer, who prints it without checking it. (I don't think he would know how to check it.) As long as the U-T licks the administration's boots, it will get cooperation from the city. But it won't be truly INFORMATION. It will be spin/nonsense, as the U-T continually prints these days. Best, Don Bauder

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Anonymous March 3, 2008 @ 4:01 p.m.

New York Times is cutting 100 news desk jobs (by attrition and buyouts)

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