John T. Griffith 5:14 p.m., May 22
Union-Tribune Lays Off Three Who Spearheaded Electronic News, Radio Efforts
The Union-Tribune today axed three executives who played key roles in the Copley Press online news efforts. Suddenly gone as of today, according to very good sources, are Chris Jennewein, who was head of the company's non-newspaper efforts; Ron James, who ran SignOnSanDiego day-to-day, and Jim Drummond, another SignOn executive. Jennewein, who was a hot property from a big media company when he was brought in several years ago, never got along with Karin Winner, editor of the U-T. "A year and a half ago, Karin held meetings with editorial employees. She painted it as newsroom vs. internet people. We looked at each other and wondered, 'Are we working for the same company,?'" says Michael Kinsman, a former U-T reporter, praising Jennewein's vision. "Gene Bell [U-T president] allowed it to fester." A recent study by Scarborough Research indicates that the combined U-T ink-and-paper and online products lost market share between 2007 and 2008, although the online operation gained some penetration. Jennewein and James, according to reports, were heavily involved in SignOn Radio, the disastrous online radio experiment that is now winding down. People with "no advertising and programming experience" were in charge, says Ron Bain, local radio pro. The on-air people "were has-beens; it was the graveyard." As of this writing, the cuts have not been announced internally. Copley Press has not responded to my questions.