More Journal Sentinel Buyouts
At least a dozen more journalists are being let go. And insiders expect some editors will be added to list.
It has become a sad and depressing task to tally the ever-mounting body count at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. More layoffs were inevitable, I wrote in July, as a result of the buyout of Journal Communications by the E.W. Scripps company.
The ugly task of realizing “efficiencies” often falls to the current editor as he or she awaits the arrival of the new management. Which in this case means Journal Sentinel editor Marty Kaiser has had to let staff know — for the umpteenth time over the last eight years or so — that more staff have to choose a buyout, or the editors will pick the people to go.
I’m told that the editors wanted 15 volunteers. I’m also told the likely list of departures includes Duane Dudek, Don Walker, Georgia Pabst, Alan King, Mabel Wong, Jan Uebelherr, Gary Porter, Bob Wolfley, Greg Pearson, Tom Tolan, Michael Hunt and Mike Juley.
The biggest names here are TV and movie writer and columnist Duane Dudek, sports columnist Bob Wolfley, and former longtime sports columnist Michael Hunt, who more recently has mostly been a sports reporter. Sports is so important to the newspaper’s readership that cuts have come more lightly there, so the layoff of these two suggests how drastic things are getting.
Walker has been doing a fine job, among other things, of covering the city, partly I suspect, in reaction to Urban Milwaukee’s city coverage. Pabst has long been the paper’s go-to person for covering social service groups and the Hispanic community, which again mostly involves coverage of the city. Together those two, along with Tolan, take with them much of the institutional memory of this community.
Porter is a talented, veteran photographer. Wolfley has been a favorite of mine, a sports columnist with a strong voice who is fun to read.
Most of the people on this list are reaching retirement age and the buyout is probably a good deal. But for the newspaper it’s a loss. (I contacted Kaiser and publisher Betsy Brenner to confirm or deny this story and have heard nothing; I’ll update as I hear more.)
The purchase of Journal Communications will result in a separate newspaper combining the Journal Sentinel with newspapers owned by Scripps, to be called Journal Media Group, and combining the radio and TV stations owned by Journal Communications under E. W. Scripps. A recent Business Journal story by Rich Kirchen quoted Scripps CEO Rich Boehne rhapsodizing about the new broadcast empire this will create. “Television is one of the greatest businesses that God ever created,” he declared. “I mean, it’s just a fabulous business.”
Newspapers, by contrast, have become the ugly duckling of the media. Boehne predicted more consolidation in the print industry and wouldn’t rule out layoffs at the Journal Sentinel.
None of the higher-level editors (and there is still a pretty long list) at the JS are included in the list above of likely departures. As Scripps merges its print operations and editorial higher-ups with those at the Journal Sentinel, how will this shake out? I’m told that Kaiser and Managing Editor George Stanley are worried about their own fate. They have operated as an effective team for a very long time.
Meanwhile the Journal Sentinel buildings are like a ghost town, with most of the facilities empty. Just ten years ago the place was booming with activity and profits. It’s a sad story indeed.