I'm working hard to gather up all of the names of those journalists who are being ushered out of the Review-Journal's headquarters right now. As I did when Greenspun Media Group canned nearly 40 people in 2009, I will continue to update this post as more names and details are confirmed.
Right now, I count 22 people on the list, almost all of them newsroom folk. I've also noticed that the RJ appears to have stripped the website of RJTV, the ill-executed daily news capsule that might have actually worked if it had decent production value and if there was some way to download or embed it.
On Facebook earlier today, former R-J Editor Thomas Mitchell wrote in response to talk show host Heidi Harris asking if the fired included anyone she knows: "Probably not ... photogs, sports, artists, pressmen, ad folks. But there is one you know, but I've not got confirmation of departure." More recently, he commented on the Facebook site of one of the fired, Dennis Rudner, "Hope you got a decent severance package."
Here's hoping that the "one you know" referenced by Mitchell is not the legendary John L. Smith, whose column last weekend certainly struck me as tentatively valedictory. That would be devastating. I also hear a press release is being worked up which, if true, would be substantially more transparency than occurred during the Greenspun massacre. (Update: No answer -- not even voicemail -- in Publisher Bob Brown's office.)
So here's the growing list. I'll add new names and the length-of-service as the information comes in. Most of these folks were fired today, but a handful lost their jobs in the past couple of weeks. In addition to this, I understand 15 employees in the press room -- a full shift -- were let go earlier this week. And, of course, there was another, smaller layoff spree at the RJ earlier in March.
I keep this list so the public knows how their newspaper is being diminished and also so these men and women do not become anonymous casualties after their many years of hard work:
* Edmund Meinhardt, editor, LV Health/View on Health, 4 years
* Steve Guiremand, sports copy editor and @UNLVRebelNation tweeter
* Dennis Rudner, assistant sports editor, 12 years
* Jim Decker, photographer, 24 years
* Jean Thorne, graphics
* Rowena Sioson Castillejos, graphics
* Jason Whited, CityLife staff writer
* Alan Choate, general assignment reporter
* Jim Haug, education reporter
* Joyce Lupiani, content editor, 16 years
* Gary Thompson, photographer, 35 years
* Craig Moran, photographer, 17 years
* Mike Johnson, news-graphic artist, 26 years
* Valerie Miller, Las Vegas Business Press reporter
* Scott Wyland, county government reporter
* Duane Prokop, 5+years
* John Gurzinski, photographer, 20 years
* Nate Tannenbaum, RJTV anchor
* Erik Huey, online advertising
* Jeff Wolf, sports reporter
* Dean White, assistant to circulation director
* John Edwards, business reporter
Rudner, on his Facebook wall, wrote: "The worst part about being laid off after 12 years on the job is the effect it has on your children, even if they are teens." Heartbreaking.
That impact to the photo department is severe. And it's made even worse to those shooters by the fact that they don't own their own equipment anymore. That is, when the cameras went high-tech digital and cost $5,000+ each, the photogs began simply using the company's. So these folks are hamstrung in terms of freelancing, from what one shooter told me. Also in the photo department, former photo editor Jeff Scheid was demoted to staff photog and Kevin Cannon is the interim photo editor.
This paints a picture of a newspaper in dire economic conditions that can only be the result of the long, incompetent tenure of disgraced former publisher Sherman Frederick. Yes, the new publisher, Bob Brown, is a former ad guy and may not have the journalistic sensitivities that Frederick did have most of the time, but it was Frederick who made a long list of terrible decisions.
Frederick constantly calls me "bitter" on his blog and on Twitter, but mostly I've just been strident that the newspaper wasn't pivoting into the new media environment with any creativity, investment or ingenuity. I have warned for many years now that that failure would endanger the entire enterprise and I said repeatedly that it would ultimately cost jobs. Sure, the economy bites and newsrooms are challenged everywhere, but this is a newspaper that actually LOST circulation even as this city's population exploded. That takes a special brand of incompetence.
It just didn't matter then because the fat margins cushioned that failure for a long time. Now we see the results, and they're horrifying for the people involved. Sherm, meanwhile, still enjoys his blog and column and his Podunk newspapers. Awesome.