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Monday, September 22, 2008

N&O loses more reporters

Posted by on Mon, Sep 22, 2008 at 5:17 PM

Sources at The News & Observer today confirmed that approximately 10 percent of newsroom staffers have accepted buyout offers and will depart the paper in early October.

Among them is Samiha Khanna, who covers Durham County and its school system; Matt Dees, a former Durham city reporter who was recently transferred to the Orange County bureau; and Cheryl Johnston Sadgrove, who covers Orange County government. Until the newsroom is reorganized to adjust for these losses, that leaves one Orange County and four Durham reporters.

The Indy is still confirming the names of other departing editorial staffers at this time. So far, approximately 16 staffers are said to have taken the offer -- the hope is that number will be enough to prevent layoffs this week.

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Meanwhile, Gary Pruitt, chairman and CEO of McClatchy, The N&O's parent company, told The Sacramento Bee that it's "too early to tell" whether McClatchy made the right move in buying the Knight Ridder newspaper chain -- a bold move that earned Pruitt a fat bonus, but saddled the company with billions of dollars in debt, debt that has led to widespread layoffs, wage freezes and other cost cutting throughout the summer. Good thing the company sold its corporate jet, though not as soon as it should have, the Lexington Newspaper Guild says.

Here's something else Pruitt once said about his business:

We always say to our papers, you challenge is no matter what, the paper must improve. It always drove me crazy where in a downturn, news hold cuts were made and the paper got worse. And I always thought restaurants don't make food worse in a downturn. Car companies don't make cars less safe in a downturn. Why is it OK to make a newspaper worse in a recession? That's your excuse for making your product worse? It makes no sense.

That statement is from an interview with UNC journalism professor Phil Meyer, quoted in Meyer's book The Vanishing Newspaper: Saving Journalism in the Information Age. (Hat tip to Paul Jones.)

Know what's driving us crazy, Mr. Pruitt? The fact that you're gutting our state's two largest newspapers.

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