Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Morning Call's Black Friday: 25 to 30 Newsroom Workers Dumped

Morning Call reporter Ann Wlazelek won her share of "Excellence in Journalism" awards this year. The Pa. Women's Press Association honored her for stories in Business (1st place), Health/Science (1st place), Outdoors (3rd place) and Features (2d place). Debbie Garlicki, another Morning Call veteran, also walked away with a plaque.

Those awards mean nothing to Morning Call beancounters.

Wlazelak and Garlicki are two of between 25 and 30 reporters unceremoniously dumped on Friday after a week of tension. Most dismissed newsroom employees are seasoned veterans, some in their 50s. They include stalwarts like editorial board member Eric Chiles and reporter Sam Kennedy. I have few details because the smoke is still clearing.

Regular op-ed features are a thing of the past. Columnists Bill White and Paul Carpenter have survived, but their roles have changed. They will now engage in a "Head to Head" format on the editorial page. Who knows? If it sells papers, beancounters might insist they wear tights and start mudwrestling.

The paper will focus more attention on the young turks leading the charge in its interactive department. You know them, they're the ones responsible for the readers' forum I like so much. On a bright note, the paper is supposed to start linking to ... horrors ... fifteen regional indie blogs on a weekly rotation. That's flattering, but blogs can never replace real journalism. We can complement and criticize, but never usurp, their important role.

In Sam Zell's media empire, the slashes have been as deep and brutal as any Roman conqueror could inflict. According to Follow the Media, the Los Angeles Times has no publisher, no advertising director, no foreign editor, no editorial pages editor, no UN bureau chief, and has cut 150 newsroom workers. At The Chicago Tribune, the publisher and editor are both gone.

And so it goes.

We've all lost. We'll all suffer. Many important stories will remain untold. Many small voices will be stifled. That's dangerous to any form of democratic government. And is it really good business? Won't people refuse to pay more for less?

22 comments:

A.J.C. said...

This give The Express-Times an excellent chance to grow more locally. If they can improve their Web site a little bit more, they'll take over the Valley.

Anonymous said...

Is there a listing of who got dismissed?

Bernie O'Hare said...

No. The executions began yesterday, and I suspect they will continue over the weekend. I doubt the paper will reveal who they terminated.

Bill Villa said...

I'm very sorry to hear about Ann Wlazelek being among those let go. Ann covered the local/regional healthcare/hospital beat for many years. She was an excellent and versatile reporter and I hope she continues to be that at another newspaper if she wants to.

Anonymous said...

Won't people refuse to pay more for less?

There will be an initial outcry, but the people (like you and me)who really value newspapers will have our moment, and then still subscribe.

The question is, how much? No need to ever pay more than half price, a lot of people have figured that out already.

Call me naive, but I recently learned that newspapers give big discounts to sell subscriptions to "New Subscribers", while long-term customers never get anything and pay full price. If you press their foreign customer service, they will tell you that a "New Subscriber" is just someone who hasn't subscribed in the past 30 days. I also saw a discount of 75% off on a card in a paper I bought at the store when I didn't get mine one day. Sure enough, the fine print said it was only for people who haven't subscribed for 30 days. I called and complained, threatened to cancel, they tried to get me to let them auto charge my credit card in exchange for a
discount. I said no and cancelled. Within a week a telemarketer called me and gave me 50% off, said that was the best she could do, but it was good for a full year and after that, it would go to regular price, but if I stopped the paper then she would call me back with whatever offer they have at the time, probably the same. She said that's how lots of people do it and never end up paying more than half-price. So I have been a sucker for all these years, OK, paying a lot so others don't have to. But now I know the game, and will save over $100 from now on. Now that the paper is going to have much less to offer, that is what everyone should do.

Timothy Russo said...

And so the final days of the "Fourth Estate," have come and gone.

Granted, the morning call's reliability as government watchdog has been questionable (at best), it is still sad to see the last realm of "old media," fall to the wayside. Here is to the hopes that the internets, online journalists, and bloggers are able to cover the news with the same awareness, and need for truth, that former newspaper journalists have in the past.

Anonymous said...

"We'll all suffer. Many important stories will remain untold. Many small voices will be stifled. That's dangerous to any form of democratic government."

That's been the story for several years now in Allentown. I doubt I'll be able to tell a difference.

Anonymous said...

Ho hum.


Scott Armstrong

Anonymous said...

Hi,

Where did you get your number (25-30)? I can't find that anywhere else!

Bernie O'Hare said...

I got that info from a MC staffer whose identity I will not divulge. I assume it will be between 35 & 40 when the axe finally stops.

Anonymous said...

The MC did this to itself. It has been a poor government watchdog. It was very subjective in its coverage.
Pawlowski, Lehigh County, Stoffa, Bethlehem all got passes.
Most of the news was not reported at least not the news that would cast any negative light on their favored candidates and office holders.
It was good to see an unaffiliated wealthy outsider not beholding to local power brokers come in and clean house.
Maybe Zell could help clean up some of these pure propaganda blogs.

Anonymous said...

Well, it is good to hear Kranzley is keeping his job. Stoffer will have at least one very important backer in his corner should he decide to seek re-election.

Anonymous said...

Stoffer will have at least one very important backer

Who is the idiot who comes on here daily to criticize Stoffer? I voted for Reiibmna, but after seeing the kind of garbage that comes from anonymous people with an agenda, my next vote will be for Stoffa.

Anonymous said...

Annon 9:18

You voted for Reibmna, REALLY!!!
I have a feeling you are a Stoffer guy and have always been a Stooffer guy. Nice try though.

Anonymous said...

You forgot Karen Beyer. She worked with them - for them.

Anonymous said...

Well, it is good to hear Kranzley is keeping his job. Stoffer will have at least one very important backer in his corner should he decide to seek re-election.

7:17 PM

Anonymous said...

It's rumored The Morning
Call process ;while top secret,
uses a model like this and this why The Valley, The Country,
and it's business is in the shape it's in.

Anonymous said...

Several of the reporters you listed-- like Ann and Sam-- chose to leave. Sam has a reporting fellowship in California, for example. Ann took a buyout. They weren't sacked. In fact, most of those who are leaving ended up taking a buyout, because the atmosphere in the newsroom sucked too much to stay.

Anonymous said...

Hi Bernie, interesting post. I have an insider who is telling me the same thing, that many of the people leaving took buyouts. Look at the Tell Zell blog for more names and others not listed who took buyouts or were sacked, including Daryl Nerl, who wrote about Allentown city politics for a long time and doing the same in Bethlehem until last week.

Those people attacking The Morning Call for not being a government watchdog really don't know what they are talking about. Like the ET reporters, the people who cover the cities and counties and school districts really don't favor anyone. There is a difference between a columnist like Paul Carpenter and the reporters who write for the local section. They will go after anyone without regard to political party. And thank goodness for that.

It will be interesting to see how much that changes. Supposedly the newspaper will be focusing more on watchdog efforts - though by the new format it seems unlikely those reports will be extensive.

Bill Leiner Jr. said...

Bernie,

Did they sever ties with John Brinson ??? Newspapers, unfortunately, are becoming the blacksmith shop of the 21st Century. Do you need a buggy whip?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Yep. All the op-ed columnists are done.

Anonymous said...

I have practical experience here; I assume your a comedian?


Anonymous said... 2:25 PM
the people who cover the cities and counties and school districts really don't favor anyone. There is a difference between a columnist like Paul Carpenter and the reporters who write for the local section. They will go after anyone without regard to political party. And thank goodness for that.

Anonymous said...

Ah...but if ONLY...letting folks know that they were laid off on Friday? Sitting down and telling them to their faces?

No, that would be RESPECTFUL.

For those who were involuntarily terminated, the information came via a phone call on Saturday or Sunday...at home, at a friend's house, out in a restaraunt with their mother-in-law sitting across the table and kids all around...