Laying off these staff writers, which editor Alison True did at the beginning of this week, was surely one of the hardest acts of her life and certainly a low point in the history of this newspaper. “Over the years,” True said Thursday in a message to the staff, ” John, Harold, Tori, and Steve have produced some of our most important and exciting stories. Their achievements have included brilliant investigative work, prestigious awards, and possibly most important, spurring social change in a city that always needs it. . . . I can’t emphasize enough that this action in no way reflects a judgment on the value of the work of these particular writers, and in fact it’s my fervent hope that they’ll continue to work with us on a contractual basis.”
They’re gone because the Reader couldn’t afford to go on paying them their salaries — “As you might guess, this move represents a shift in the financial structure of our relationship with contributors,” True wrote. They’re gone because a few years ago Craigslist moved in on our classifieds section — and classifieds represented a huge portion of our income. They’re gone because the old Section One — the editorial section — was for decades the tail that wagged the dog here, and when revenues fell it became impossible to continue to allocate the same funds to it.
But the Reader’s readers see through the crap:
“They’re gone because a few years ago Craigslist moved in on our classifieds section”? I’m semi-sympathetic and a fan…but also a realist. The statement could well have read: “They’re gone because after Craigslist moved in on our classifieds section, we dithered and hoped that this emerging new business model would just go away.”
There were no other options than laying off four of their best writers – reporters who, said True “have produced some of our most important and exciting stories”? What about True cutting the entire staff’s salary, including her own, to help make Eason’s new budget?
Until the highest-paid news “executive” earns no more than his lowest-paid reporter, I don’t want to hear another word of their woe-is-me mouthing about “we had no other choice.” There are ALWAYS other choices. Sack up and just admit, “We had no other choice that I really felt like making.” At least then I’ll grant you the respect honesty is due.