Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Milking it at the Sarasota Herald-Tribune

On Monday the pages of the New York Times got smaller, and today one of its major regional news organizations laid off more editorial staff. Only a month after offering a cheapskate buyout of employees 50 and older (and chickenshittedly fessing up), the Sarasota Herald-Tribune is once again announcing that it's "trimming" staff.

Although the article says the number reporters laid off is "unspecified," the bloodletting was in fact quite specific, according to sources within the newsroom. The-about-to-be-trimmed staff was hastily summoned to suspenseful, must-attend meetings in each of the paper's newsrooms, and those being laid off were given their walking papers in front of the entire assemblages.

There's an as yet unconfirmed report that in some bureaus, the assemblies were, Last Judgment-like, divided into two groups. One group was then informed it was saved, the other advised of its damnation.

The Sarasota paper may be the flagship of regional Times rags, but this manner of treating its employees bespeaks a thuggish, mandarin culture that demeans the profession.

The paper is also bagging its tedious "Florida West" section (but rescuing its most tedious features: food, wine, health and fitness,) and closing certain of its bureaus to the public. Ironically, the paper that once feared to attach its name to its online site (it called it for over a year) now claims it will create "interactive web sites" -- that give citizens the right to post vanity pictures -- to placate residents in the areas where many of the cuts were made.

"Because our customers increasingly interact with us by phone or e-mail, the North Port and Englewood offices will be closed to the public," [Sarasota Herald-Tribune Publisher Diane McFarlin] said. "Customers who prefer to visit us in person can do so at our Venice and Port Charlotte locations."
Virtual readership indeed. Perhaps if the paper actually covered events, realities, hard news with something resembling integrity, it would have fewer revenue concerns.

Then again, it likes to remind its employees that it's a cash cow for the New York Times, which is said to milk all its regionals to buttress its sagging butt. With Rupert Murdock now assuming control of Dow Jones, the Times corporate leeches must be yanking those lugs like they're going out of style. Which it seems they are.

Update: McFarland's memo to staff during the last buyout offer, via Romanesko, via Fading to Black.

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