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More employees went to the guillotine at the Union-Tribune today (June 14). The move was completely unexpected, according to sources who know the inside. Getting laid off were David Ogul of the metro desk; Cathy Snapp of the business section; Don Sevrens, long-time editor who was most recently an editorial writer; Nancy Wyld, one-time bean counter who took on added responsibilities such as readers' representative, and Jim Skovmand of the photo desk. Robert York who was once senior editor for visuals, and then moved into sports, was moved into advertising. It is possible that Wyld took another job within the company; I wasn't able to determine if that is true.

Comments
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ADD ON U-T LAYOFFS: There were also head choppings among production and sales employees, but I haven't been able to get any names. Best, Don Bauder

June 14, 2011

Truly sad to see the continued decimation of what was once a major metro daily newspaper — and don't even get me started on the journalistic atrocity that is SignOn San Diego, where it's glaringly obvious that quality has been totally abandoned in favor of "page views."

June 14, 2011

Reducing employment only exacerbates the editorial problems of which you speak. It appears to me that the U-T is already running too lean, at least on the editorial side. Best, Don Bauder

June 15, 2011

IS U-T OWNER AIMING TO BUY ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER PARENT? The Wall Street Journal says this morning (June 15) that talks that Denver's MediaNews Group will buy Orange County's Freedom Communications have broken down. Freedom owns more than 100 newspapers including the Orange County Register. Both companies went through rapid bankruptcy reorganizations last year. Freedom's newspapers could be worth $350 million and its TV stations $400 million, says the Journal. The takeover talks broke down over price. Therefore, rumors that U-T owner Platinum Equity is eyeing Freedom have resurfaced. Another possible buyer of Freedom would be Tribune Company, owner of the Los Angeles Times, says the Journal. That rumor has been around before, too. Tribune is still in a very ugly bankruptcy. Best, Don Bauder

June 15, 2011

The beat goes on at the Incredible Shrinking Newspaper. I will so often see BBC news headlines on-line one day, and they don't get into the Light News until two days later. That is commonplace. Yet with the little space remaining in the rag, much is often used on huge photos and graphics, such as today when the E section, Food, had on its front page a color photo of a teapot and teacup, taking up about a third of the available space, that accompanied a "feelgood" feature story about teas. Yet murder trials now fail to get mention in the miserable effort, and the local folks who still depend on it to know what's going on in the county miss major news.

June 15, 2011

Your criticisms are astute, as always. When Platinum Equity bought the paper, management announced that the emphasis would be on local news. That is a good strategy in this economic environment. However, three factors, in particular, undermine efforts to cover local news: 1. The layoffs; 2. The hiring of inexperienced reporters, who come cheap; 3. The hiring of editors who spent time at the Orange County Register, where U-T editor Jeff Light spent so much of his career. As someone who has covered San Diego for 38 years, I can tell that many reporters are too green and their editors are still not familiar with San Diego. Wiping out of the copy desk makes the paper look grammatically sloppy. Worse, the paper is propagandizing for ridiculous corporate welfare projects, such as a Chargers stadium, as its predecessor did. And as you point out, the coverage of national and international news is a case of too late with too little. Anybody buying the U-T ink and paper edition or reading it online has to go to other sources to get a world view. Best, Don Bauder

June 15, 2011

One wonders how many special districts and city agencies now go completely uncovered by even college journalism interns, let alone experienced journalists.

Just when San Diego County could use some real digging (as happened in the City of Bell by The Los Angeles Times), the U-T seems to have jettisoned everyone but marquee columnists and the bottom tier of the newsroom payroll.

County taxpayers are going to have some nasty surprises in the next decade as pensions and bonds become due and deferred capital projects cause the infrastructure to fail. And they won't get even a hint of it coming down the pike because there is no one left to report it, no one to properly edit it and in any event there is no place to print it.

Damned shame.

June 15, 2011

Other publications such the Reader are trying to cover some of the things you mention. If you go back about 30 years, the radio stations had news departments. They have been gone for some time. San Diego is not the only metro area that is suffering in this environment. Best, Don Bauder

June 15, 2011

You're right of course; thank goodness for the Reader (among others). Still, big-pocketbook publishers are able to do major projects that are sadly rare these days.

Not that the Copleys enjoyed rocking the boat even when they were in their heyday.

June 16, 2011

SD Rostra had a story late yesterday afternoon and has linked up your story, Don: Breaking: UT Budget Cuts Said to Result in Dismissal of Editorial Writer Don Sevrens, three Editors... http://sdrostra.com/?p=17010

June 15, 2011

Don Sevrens joined the San Diego Union in 1967, as I recall. So he was around roughly 44 years. Best, Don Bauder

June 15, 2011

Forty-four years! Why, he was a fossil and long overdue for the pasture. There's scarcely anyone left on the editorial page staff. The page will soon look like the editorial page of the Elko (Nevada) Independent.

June 15, 2011

Wait a minute! I was with the U-T 30 years when I retired in 2003. I have been with the Reader for more than 8 years. I was with Business Week 9 years and in advertising/PR for 4 years. (Have you seen the TV program Mad Men? It's about scoundrels who were in advertising in 1960. I started in advertising that year but didn't qualify as a scoundrel -- at least in my opinion. Plus I was in Chicago and the randy Mad Men were on Madison Ave. in New York.) In any case, that adds up to 51 years that I have been in the media business, 47 of of them in financial/business journalism. I do know that a lot of people consider me a fossil, but.... Best, Don Bauder

June 15, 2011

I'm younger than you, and people consider ME a fossil. I graduated college, class of '67. If I'd been able to start a career right away and stay in it until now, I'd have those 44 years in. Unfortunately, military service intervened, then graduate school, then a business career of about two decades, then a career change, then . . . All I can say is that it has been "interesting."

Signed: Just another fossil

June 15, 2011

I had already finished active duty military (six months) and graduate school (just a Master's) when I started working in 1960. I am a fossil. You're just a kid. Best, Don Bauder

June 15, 2011

The internal politics at the U-T were always strange, but I bet they're Twilight-Zone material now. The place must look balkanized.

June 16, 2011

The internal politics under the old regime/ownership were capricious. Favoritism triumphed; productivity meant very little. Once the layoffs and buyouts began, the situation was unbearable, I am told. (I had left in 2003, before the head-chopping began.) Today, there are several factors keeping employees extremely jittery: 1. Owner Platinum Equity buys assets to sell them; it has a 3 to 5 year holding period so it may be looking to jettison the paper if it can find a buyer -- which will be difficult; 2. If, instead, Platinum decides to expand in the newspaper business by, say, combining with other Southern California papers, there is also a threat of a personnel pogrom; 3. Platinum has cut payroll to the bone in many departments and employees are working too hard for too little pay; 4. The ink and paper side of the business remains fragile everywhere, and online products are not making adequate money, if any. There are other reasons for nervousness, too. Best, Don Bauder

June 16, 2011

I'm really curious as to why the U-T and every other newspaper in this country seems to be circling the drain, while newspapers across Europe and elsewhere are still thriving in both readership and revenue? I seriously doubt they have any less access to online content than we do, so what do you think accounts for this Don, and what could American newspapers do differently to emulate European success right now??

June 16, 2011

I do think newspapers in Europe and other countries are doing better than those in the U.S., although I am not sure they are "thriving." I see a lot of theories thrown around about this seeming enigma. I don't have an answer and I am not sure anyone else has a cogent one. Best, Don Bauder

June 16, 2011

It's sad to watch the ruination of the newspaper industry. The loss of serious journalism has created an enormous problem for this country and is one of the reasons for the shocking gains made by the Robber Barons over the past 10 years. It may also be responsible for some of the increase in political polarization in this country.

I read an article recently where the CIA has said that the US could face disastrous consequences in the future because lack of serious journalism could lead to a loss of the checks and balances that are needed in the decision making process. It was surprising to see the CIA recognize this as a problem as well...

June 17, 2011

Yes, newspapers as such (the ink and paper variety) have only a generation or two to go, but news will always be around in some form. Serious news coverage is moving from the media behemoths to the online operations, which do a much better job of two-way communications or participative journalism. However, the big worry is that so many younger people aren't interested in cerebral questions (or cerebral art). Now that is a REAL problem. Best, Don Bauder

June 18, 2011

This is what I get when I have tried to post for the last three days:

The page cannot be found The page you are looking for might have been removed, had its name changed, or is temporarily unavailable.


Please try the following:

If you typed the page address in the Address bar, make sure that it is spelled correctly.

Open the www.sandiegoreader.com home page, and then look for links to the information you want. Click the Back button to try another link. Click Search to look for information on the Internet.

HTTP 400 - Bad Request Internet Explorer

While these suggestions may well work, they are such a p-i-t-a that it will not be worth the trouble to post in the future. I really do have another life . . .

June 18, 2011

C'mon, Twister, keep trying. We need you. Best, Don Bauder

June 19, 2011

Ironically, this is what I was trying to post today:

Re: I don't have an answer and I am not sure anyone else has a cogent one."

As Meis van der Rhoe said a long time ago, "God is in the details."

I suspect cultural inertia and failure to adapt.

Obsession with aphorisms like "If it bleeds it leads" might have something to do with it. Hell, even the Reader has not caught on to the concept of seamless integration yet. If it wasn't for T & A and other narcissistic ads, it would sink too.

June 18, 2011

There seem to be a number of factors addressing why newspapers decline in the U.S. (and Europe at a lower rate) and grow elsewhere. One is literacy. In India, for example, literacy is rising, helping newspapers to grow. Best, Don Bauder

June 19, 2011

I came in the circuitous route with that last post, but the system slapped me with the same message today. This is not unique to your blog; I tried it on another one today; same problem. I hope the Reader geekeroos can take a run outside and check that the sun is shining (Vitamin D deficiency is bad for the brain), then run back in after at least five minutes buck neckead and try to solve this system-wide defect in their program. I will tiptoe through the tulips for a few more days, but I can't afford to let this already giant sucking time sink rob me of any more loafing time.

THIS GLITCH IS ONLY A FEW DAYS OLD, so it HAS to be a result of something they actively did. Unintended, of course.

June 19, 2011

I hate to hear your complaints about our system but I am not the one to speak with: I'm a Luddite. Best, Don Bauder

June 19, 2011

If others hear me squawk, the might chime in. One complaint is too easily written off.

June 20, 2011

Getting back to the main story -- Don, can the powers-that-be -- that is, American business -- in this country keep operating that guillotine without consequence? This can only further erode families and every other aspect of U.S. stability. Forget about the American Dream; this is about an unrelenting assault on the human infrastructure that underpins our democracy. President Obama and/or Congress need to step up and stop that business guillotine before we as a country completely self-destruct.

June 21, 2011

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