At a time when most media companies are cutting spending, the
Providence Journal is looking to fill a number of jobs. More than
anything else, though, the situation stems from the extent to which a recently
implemented buyout has thinned the paper's journalistic resources.
More than 90 employees took the buyout -- more than twice the number
anticipated by management -- including 52 members of the Providence Newspaper
Guild, says Guild administrator Tim Schick. "I think the large number of people
that left confirmed people's suspicion that there's a great deal of
dissatisfaction," he says, referring to how union-management relations have
soured since the Belo Corporation bought the ProJo in 1997. Employees
over 62 stood to benefit most from the buyout, which was offered to those over
55. But the average of departing Guild members is 60, begging the question,
Schick says, of why they chose to leave. "This was in many people's view a way
out of a very bad situation," he says.
Those taking the buyout include some of the Journal's most experienced
staffers, including city editor Andy Burkhardt; reporters Randall Richard,
Doane Hulick, Robert Leddy, Ronald Cassinelli, and Brian C. Jones; arts writers
Bill Gale and Jim Seavor; food editor Donna Lee; sportswriters Bud Barker,
Robert Dick, and Ed Duckworth; and photographers Bill Daby and Mike Kelly.
In related news, Mike Herzog, a member of the Journal's four-person
investigative team, is leaving the paper after five years to teach
computer-assisted reporting at the University of Missouri's School of
Journalism. "This is really just an incredible opportunity to be teaching at
one of the best journalism schools in the country," Herzog says, adding that
internal strife wasn't a factor in his decision.
About 60 staffers had previously left Fountain Street over the last two years
-- a move described by management as normal turnover and by the Guild as a vote
of no confidence. Although most of those vacancies were filled, the
Journal implemented a hiring freeze earlier this year. After the paper
lost a cumulative 1603 years of experience just among the Guild members who
took the buyout, the question now is whether Belo will reinvest in the
Journal or allow it to lose its luster as one of the better medium-sized
dailies in the country.
Through an assistant, Joel Rawson, the Journal's executive editor,
declined to comment. Schick says the Journal has posted about 30 job
openings in the Guild, but he remains pessimistic about the paper's direction
under Belo. "My fear is that the Journal is going to become another
New Haven Register," he says, citing how the Journal Register Company
cut resources after buying the Register. "I think that's what's
happening. Other than the Boston Globe, the Journal used to be
premier paper in New England. I see it becoming just another regional newspaper
with nothing exceptional about it."
Ian Donnis can be reached at email@example.com.
Issue Date: December 13 - 19, 2001