Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Daily News update

Hey guys,

For those of you who didn't hear the budget news, Ron laid it out for us today: on August 12, the Daily News is eliminating zone coverage in Santa Clarita and Antelope Valley. We'll lose the SAC and AV wraps and the staffing will be greatly reduced.

Out of three reporter positions and one photographer in AV, three reporters, a clerk, a photographer and the bureau chief in SAC, we'll have one reporter in each office and one editor for both. Coverage will be dramatically curtailed, with those bureau staffers contributing to the main sheet. I believe some pressmen lost their jobs, as well, but that's out of my area of expertise, so I can't talk specifics.

The company's offering buyouts equal to one week's pay for each year of service, up to six years and three months paid COBRA health care. For those reporters and photographers who don't want to take the buyouts, they'll be offered jobs in Woodland Hills, which would lead to a few more layoffs elsewhere.

While I appreciate Ron's attempts to minimize job loss and that he personally informed the staff involved, rather than sending an e-mail or someone else to do his dirty work, today is a terrible day. Once again, MediaNews' corporate moneyhounds have put profit ahead of people and good journalism, and that's horrible for everyone involved. While the overall job loss should be relatively minor, that doesn't matter much when it's your job that's eliminated. My heart goes out to the people who've worked so hard up there and we'll all need to keep our eyes out for other employment possibilities for them.

We'll know in a few days how this all works out, who chooses to stay and who chooses to move on. Whatever decision they make, we're here to ensure things go smoothly and fairly. And we will support every one of them all the way, no matter when they stop at the Daily News. To the budget watchers in Denver, these are just numbers on a page, but to us, these our our friends and colleagues. We'll look out for them to the last.

I know this is not an easy time for anyone, but I hope that for those who choose to stick around, you'll continue to believe in the paper and each other. Throughout all this craziness, you've done fantastic work and should be really proud of everything you've accomplished. Thank you for all your dedication and skill-- while the corporate budgeteers may not appreciate it, the people of this community do. Hang in there and I'll share more news for you as soon as I have it.


Sunday, July 15, 2007

Why It Matters

Hey folks,

When I opened my copy of Time magazine this morning, I found our rather ashen-looking mayor staring back at me from page 18. Alongside Michael Chertoff warning about the dangers of terrorists and Richard Carmona complaining about the politicization of the surgeon general's job, Villaraigosa said "I don't believe tht the details of my personal life are relevant to my job as mayor."

The reason people from Chula Vista to Bangor, Maine know that the mayor stepped outside his marriage to take up with Mirthala Salinas comes directly from our newsroom. Had Beth Barrett not broken that hotly anticipated story, he wouldn't have to be answering those tough questions right now. And it's not just a national story-- this showed up in the Guardian, leaving many Brits to scratch their heads, no doubt, and wonder, "who's this Villa-what's-his-name bloke? And what are those crazy Angelenos up to now, anyhow?"

As they keep reading, they see that "the little Daily News outhustled the LA Times," to borrow a line from a recent Kevin Roderick podcast. It didn't take fancy gizmos, a staff of hundreds or anything besides good, hard work from Beth, Nancy, Minerva, Miriam, Judi, Ron and everyone else who pitched in on it. With dedication and great reporting skills, they broke a story that grabbed the eyes of people all over the world.

And though that was essentially a print story, without all the online hoo-ha that we've been building up lately, it was through Dailynews.com that the world paid attention. That's the same Web site that was named best in the state by CNPA yesterday. With our tiny staff, nickel budget and clunky system, we held our own against newspapers large and small all across California. We did so due to your hard work and excellent content. You (and Josh Kleinbaum, most of all) made people care.

While my main purpose here is to recognize everyone's fine contributions to this paper, I'm not doing this just to brag. As I've noted before, the industry is in an extremely rocky patch right now and conditions are terrible everywhere. As our corporate overseers look for more ways to wring every last cent out of the Daily News with minimal investment in return, we're going to have learn to adapt and survive.

The only way we'll be able to do that is if we work together. We've got to put in a universally solid effort every day and look out for one another all the time if we're going to get through this. We're blessed with an amazingly talented staff, innovative editors and a wealth of subjects to cover, but we've got a hard fight to stay alive in this rotten corporate environment. The more we hang together, the easier that fight will be.

And it's worth fighting, too. I was reminded of that recently when I went out to cover a funeral mass of a soldier killed in Iraq. We'd run a front page obituary the day before and several people at the mass came over to talk to me afterward. Neither one knew the man who died, but they came to pay their respects because they were moved by his story of sacrifice.

"Thank you for coming," one guy told me. "I'm glad the Daily News is here-- you always let me know what's happening in my community."

So whether it's for people reading us in Nottingham or North Hollywood, we've got to keep at it. You guys are smart, talented and hard-working and it shows every day in the product you put out. Let's keep that alive.