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A management person has confirmed rumors going around the Union-Tribune today (May 29). Robert (Bobbie) Espinosa, head of human resources, has been separated from the company. Also out, according to good information, is Scott Whitley, chief revenue officer, or the head of advertising. Many employees believed that Espinosa dealt squarely with them. Whitley has been on the job ten years. Up to now, almost all layoffs have been of Indians, not chiefs. These two moves break the pattern, probably because of the new ownership.

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Comments

HellcatCopley May 29, 2009 @ 2:35 p.m.

Robert (Bobbie) Espinosa is ROBERTA. He is a SHE!

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WhatGoesAround May 29, 2009 @ 2:44 p.m.

With Bobbie Espinosa gone, I suspect some other chiefs and chiefs-in-waiting will be vulnerable now. As far as employees being dealt with squarely -- it's a subjective assessment, and few employees really ever learn completely what goes on behind the scenes. As a former chief once remarked, "Perception is reality," which is an intriguing statement coming from the upper echelons of a media company.

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pascal May 29, 2009 @ 2:45 p.m.

Heard last week that another of their top brass, Jessica Walker (VP Accounting), had been relieved of her duties as well. So that's now 3.

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Don Bauder May 29, 2009 @ 2:50 p.m.

Response to post #1: Yes, I know that. I knew her, of course. "Robert" was a typo. Mea maxima culpa. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder May 29, 2009 @ 3:03 p.m.

Response to post #2: I would not be surprised if the entire upper echelon goes. Private equity groups doing takeovers usually change the accounting. Somebody who has been around for awhile might not approve. Best, Don Bauder

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HellcatCopley May 29, 2009 @ 3:03 p.m.

Also, Scott Whitley is not chief revenue officer, Bill Nagel is.

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Don Bauder May 29, 2009 @ 3:10 p.m.

Response to post #3: I haven't heard about the Jessica Walker matter. I do not know her. Because the accounting is likely to change, such a move could be expected. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder May 29, 2009 @ 4:02 p.m.

Response to post #6: If you google Scott Whitley, you find that his latest bio calls him chief revenue officer. He has always been the ad guy, as far as I know. I figured that chief revenue officer was a fancy term for ad director. Best, Don Bauder

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Burwell May 29, 2009 @ 4:13 p.m.

I wonder if attorney Karl Zobell and his law firm were terminated as well

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Heddaheadgiver May 29, 2009 @ 4:23 p.m.

I believe Karl Zobell was quietly dumped long ago by David Copley. Something about an email message Mrs. Zobell wrote, quoting her husband's harsh criticism of David. She mistakenly sent to someone who turned out to be a David groupie. Oh, the dangers of email!

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Don Bauder May 29, 2009 @ 4:25 p.m.

Response to post #9: Karl Zobell has been one of the three persons in charge of David's trust -- Zobell, Chuck Patrick and David. Zobell was also a board member. There was a pretty sound story that Zobell was axed long ago -- it seemed good enough to me that I posted it on the blog, warning that it might be a canard. I couldn't get comment from the company or Zobell. But I kept watching Zobell's website: he continued to list his Copley posts. Since the La Jolla headquarters has not been sold, I assume there is still a Copley Press. Whether Zobell is on its board, I don't know. Unless he got chopped some time ago, he would still be on the trust trio with Chuck Patrick and David, presumably. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder May 29, 2009 @ 4:28 p.m.

Response to post #10: That's the same story I heard that prompted my attempt to find out what happened, and wound up with my posting the hedged item. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder May 29, 2009 @ 4:54 p.m.

NOTE: On a U-T website of recent vintage, under "Advertising Sales," Scott Whitley is the first listed with the title "vice president, chief revenue officer." A few notches down is "Bill Nagel, senior vice president, business channels." I must say that "vice president, chief revenue officer" and "senior vice president, business channels," are pompous titles indeed. Who thought them up? Should he or she have been doing something productive? Best, Don Bauder

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Burwell May 29, 2009 @ 8:22 p.m.

Maybe Don will be able to learn the identity of the top U-T executives who decided which rank and file reporters would be fired, and the process that was used to identify the targets. It would be interesting to know how the firing decisions were made and who made them.

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Don Bauder May 29, 2009 @ 8:41 p.m.

Response to post #14: I have heard that some people were fired from certain departments, and nobody in the department had been consulted. I haven't pinned that down yet. Best, Don Bauder

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muzzler May 30, 2009 @ 8:21 p.m.

It's a real shame that Bobbie was let go, she was a class act

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Don Bauder May 30, 2009 @ 8:56 p.m.

Response to post #16: Bobbie Espinosa put in some advanced (for Copley) Human Resources techniques at the U-T. Under her, employees were polled on their attitudes, their desire for changes, etc. I think she tried to make some positive changes in the suffocating culture. And she was fair. I remember one time when she treated an employee who had been active in union affairs quite equitably. That was a first at Copley, no doubt. Best, Don Bauder

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muzzler May 30, 2009 @ 8:24 p.m.

As for Scott, what goes around comes around. Surprised he lasted so long especially after effing them out of a marketing gal.

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Don Bauder May 30, 2009 @ 9:02 p.m.

Response to post #17: I don't know of the incident of which you speak. Best, Don Bauder

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WhatGoesAround May 30, 2009 @ 10:41 p.m.

Don, I think you give too much credit and deference to the function of Human Resources departments in corporate America.

Although there are people who genuinely believe that the annual Employee Surveys are performed with the employees' interests at heart (and perhaps some HR people do it for that reason), I don't believe the motive at the U-T is as altruistic as your Post #18 above suggests.

I have read elsewhere that these surveys are strategic instruments recommended by union-busting law firms (for example, King and Ballow) and are used to gauge and anticipate employee discontent that can morph into union organizing drives. My gut and experience tell me that is the intent.

Whether one agrees or disagrees with the concept of collective bargaining, or whether a company wants to deal with unions, it is still employees' legal right to organize.

Perhaps some folks are feeling nostalgic about the regime change in HR, and perhaps it will get worse under a new Director (Directoress). That said, "fairness" sounds like something out of Grimm's playbook, unless we are contrasting the U-T's HR department with say, the Taliban. Then I guess one could refer to U-T HR as a benign and benevolent organization.

If all could speak freely, I believe a more documentary tale would be told.

Other than that, I have never worked at a company where there wasn't some level of relationship (including sexual) intrigue related to power politics in the organization. This kind of thing is RAMPANT at the U-T, as it is elsewhere, and probably ever since Adam and Eve co-managed Eden (or so the story goes.)

When media organizations start telling the truth internally, our democracy will be the better for it.

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Don Bauder May 31, 2009 @ 7:43 a.m.

Response to post #20: Your interpretation of these attitude surveys has merit, but when I was at the U-T, and technically on the management payroll, I believed that HR under Espinosa genuinely wanted to see improvement in morale. Yes, top management hated unions and may have thought of the surveys as a gauge of looming labor unrest, but HR thought of them, mainly, as roadmaps for the company to work on. Realistically, these surveys may have served both purposes for different people in management. I don't think anyone thought of the surveys as altruistic. Improved morale should enhance productivity, and is in the company's bottom line interest. Best, Don Bauder

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Visduh May 31, 2009 @ 9:38 a.m.

If the U-T HR department was actually acting partly as an advocate for employees and was trying to boost morale, that would make it one of few such operations in the US. Most of them, despite high-flown rhetoric by the HR cabal (which ludicrously calls itself "professional"), are henchmen (and women) hired to do dirtywork for the employer. While HR should be very involved in hiring, most managers don't want their help. So, that leaves HR with the roles of helping management go to the very edge of illegality with its employment policies, and firing offenders. Almost any rule infraction can be, if someone wants it, a firing offense, and the HR types take great glee in handling terminations. A corollary skill they have is managing layoffs.

So, if the U-T has canned its HR director, who will now handle the continuing layoffs? Or does this signal that the layoffs are now over? Yeah, right.

Maybe Roberta Espinosa was one of those rare HR execs who didn't take glee in firings and layoffs, and was really interested in morale. If so, she was not the sort of person that U-T management wanted, or will want going forward. The 850 or so remaining U-T employees can probably look forward to having a typical HR manager "looking out" for them. Things will get worse.

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Don Bauder May 31, 2009 @ 9:58 a.m.

Response to post #22: You're quite observant. Of course HR departments work for management, and often that work is dirty, such as in layoffs, both mass and individual. But because improved working conditions should result in enhanced productivity, employee satisfaction polls are a means to that end. At the U-T, HR often served to mediate disputes between or among employees. And I know one case in which an employee who was active in labor union activity was up against a management person. Bobbie Espinosa was eminently fair in that case. It was the management person who wound up leaving, although I am quite sure it was a voluntary departure. Best, Don Bauder

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HellcatCopley June 1, 2009 @ 11:24 a.m.

The Employee Opinion Surveys at the UT started out as a King & Ballow tool to smoke out bad management. The HR department at the UT was intensely interested in good management. Union busting basics say that employees treated poorly or irrationally will want third party representation. If reated fairly, they won't. Many a supervisory head got rolled when bad behavior surfaced in those surveys.

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HellcatCopley June 1, 2009 @ 11:48 a.m.

Remember back in March?

March 18, 2009

SAN DIEGO – The parent company of The San Diego Union-Tribune announced Wednesday that it has reached an agreement to sell the newspaper to a Beverly Hills investment firm for an undisclosed price.

….. Union-Tribune Editor Karin Winner called the sale “terrific news. This is really exciting news.”

“This is a company that really believes in us and the future,” Winner said. “This is a company that really wants to see journalism continue. They believe in this region. ... They are a strong, healthy company. This to me is the first 'up' piece of news," she said, "the first positive piece of news," at a time when newspapers are folding.

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Don Bauder June 1, 2009 @ 12:11 p.m.

Response to post #24: I remember one time when lower- and mid-level management at the U-T (editorial department) was asked to rate top management (the editor, managing editor, associate editor, etc.) What was intended to be a secret ballot turned out to be nothing of the sort, because absolutely nobody gave high marks to the top management. It was embarrassing to the top folks and just as embarrassing, and neurosis-inducing, to us low and middle folk, because our negative feelings were out in the open. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder June 1, 2009 @ 12:17 p.m.

Response to post #25: Well, it was apparently good for Winner. As far as I can determine, she is still there. Platinum announced when it came in that there had to be major changes in the editorial product. Then it kept the editor in place. Best, Don Bauder

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WhatGoesAround June 1, 2009 @ 1:03 p.m.

Don, I respect your comments on my previous posts. My first-hand knowledge and experience was not as positive as yours, and left me with different conclusions regarding HR.

Comment on post #24: As with the French Reign of Terror and the Bolshevik Revolution, many innocent heads rolled and innocents were murdered in the name of supposed "Bad Management."

There were and probably still are some really incompetent managers at the Union-Tribune, but those are people so skilled at covering their tracks that there's no guarantee anyone will ever be on to them.

In a contemporary parallel, I quote the eminently poetic Pete Townshend: "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss!"

The Union-Tribune was and probably still is a severely dysfunctional organization.

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Don Bauder June 1, 2009 @ 1:58 p.m.

Response to post #28: Actually, I didn't personally have that many positive or negative experiences in the Espinosa reign. I have based my observations largely on experiences and opinions that others had. Back in 1997, in the early stages of my opposition to the Chargers subsidy and the 60,000 seat guarantee, I was slapped with a week without pay, and I was told that HR was in favor of the move. But I don't know that it was Espinosa's decision. Going back before she came in, I had very positive experiences with Earl Vikander and Ollie Peter in HR. Is the U-T still dysfunctional? Yes, certainly, and I don't know that I have written otherwise. Best, Don Bauder

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SurfPuppy619 June 1, 2009 @ 10:33 p.m.

This is classic, from 1981!!!............;

"GREETINGS, PROFESSOR FALKEN"

"SHALL WE READ THE PAPER?"

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Don Bauder June 2, 2009 @ 6:24 a.m.

Response to post #30: Wow! Classic. It demonstrates that back in the early 1980s, professionals were talking about the possibility of people getting their news electronically in their homes. Two decades later, newspaper executives professed to be shocked at the fast proliferation of the Internet, and competition from Craigslist, Google, etc. The ink-and-paper press was asleep at the switch. These executives also had plenty of time to see the demographic changes coming: young people weren't reading papers back in the early 1980s and there were numbers to show it. Best, Don Bauder

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WhatGoesAround June 2, 2009 @ 7:42 a.m.

Here's another interesting commentary on the topic of online news content.

http://industry.bnet.com/media/10002449/secret-meeting-of-news-execs-and-lawyers-a-joke/

The Newspaper Association of America (NAA) -- another group asleep at the wheel for too long.

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Don Bauder June 2, 2009 @ 1:47 p.m.

Response to post #32: Good story -- worth reading. Best, Don Bauder

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PaperGirlSD June 2, 2009 @ 2:06 p.m.

Bobbie is a class act. All of my interactions with her were pleasant.

There were no surveys for the last few years, I supposed they didn't have time to care about morale anymore. I really did not see any changes due to the surveys. Ralph Imhoff used to go over the results with us, after he left, no more surveys... coincidence?

Also, yes, Jessica and Fransisco were walked out the previous Friday, so CFO and Editor of Enlace, gone.

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Don Bauder June 2, 2009 @ 4:30 p.m.

Response to post #34: The surveys were probably dropped because the company didn't have the money to keep doing them. At that point, management wasn't concerned about morale; it was just trying to survive. Is Enlace still going, sans editor? Best, Don Bauder

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Shadow June 3, 2009 @ 3:25 p.m.

Speaking of Winner, has anyone ever proven or disproven an inappropriate relationship between her and a staffer who has been her companion on countless trips over the years, as well as the recipient of a lavish 30th birthday party some years ago? I'm asking because I wonder whether any of the laid-off employees may have grounds for discriminatory treatment, since the favored employee has survived unscathed.

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Don Bauder June 3, 2009 @ 3:46 p.m.

Response to post #36: Yes, Winner has a very close relationship with a staffer who is quite high on the totem pole, and was elevated to the post by Winner. I'm not sure it was "inappropriate," in the sense that this staffer is intelligent. One of Winner's egregious faults is making personnel moves on the basis of her personal likes and dislikes; competence is seldom a factor. In the case of the person you allude to, however, there are few if any signs of incompetence. Best, Don Bauder

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SurfPuppy619 June 3, 2009 @ 5:28 p.m.

One of Winner's egregious faults is making personnel moves on the basis of her personal likes and dislikes; competence is seldom a factor.

She seems to have taken the game plan from the governemnts play book where almost everything is political-especially at the upper levels.

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Don Bauder June 3, 2009 @ 6 p.m.

Response to post #38: Are you speaking of Cheney picking Dubya to be his puppet? Best, Don Bauder

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pascal June 5, 2009 @ 9:38 a.m.

Enlace Publisher Francisco Mata is still currently at the U-T, he was not let go with Walker, as reported in a comment above.

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Don Bauder June 5, 2009 @ 12:06 p.m.

Response to post #40: I assume, then, that Enlace is still going. Can you tell me? Best, Don Bauder

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pascal June 5, 2009 @ 5:19 p.m.

Response to post #41: Don, as of last weekend, it was still available. Will let you know if I don't see a new edition this weekend (I think it comes out Fridays or Saturdays).

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Don Bauder June 5, 2009 @ 9:08 p.m.

Response to post #42: I never knew if it made money. I just didn't pay attention to whether it was attracting ads. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder June 12, 2009 @ 9:35 p.m.

NOTE: Another high-level Union-Tribune executive is gone, according to reports received today (June 12). He is Mark Davis, senior vice president for strategy and interactive media. He had not been around long. Best, Don Bauder

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