Friday, August 19, 2011

More On R-J Carnage: Severence, Silence & Sherm

[UPDATE: Oskar Garcia of the Associated Press is out with a report on these layoffs that pretends none of the reporting you've seen here exists. He did, however, speak to Bob Brown, the publisher who declined my requests as well as those of KNPR. Evidently, Mr. Brown does not believe in speaking about this within his own community. Not terribly good modeling for potential sources for the newspaper itself, is it? See what he had to say to Garcia here.]

I continue to add names and details to the prior post on the firings at the R-J, and it doesn't seem like a second round is occurring today as was rumored. But here's some news from today:

* Severance: The employees who lost their jobs yesterday were handed a white envelope, told to get their things and escorted out of the building. Here is how one now-ex-RJer described their parting gifts via email to me:

Terminated employees were given their checks paid through the week with any leftover vacation/sick time hours included. The severance offered is 12 weeks of pay if you sign on the line not to sue the Stephens Media Group if it is found that they had terminated you for other reasons, such as age or some other protected class. Sign that and you get your money. Also, we get three months of medical benefits, including family coverage. If we have a lot of stuff in our desks, we must make appointments to collect the items before 8 a.m. so our presence is not be disruptive. HR Benefits Manager Cindy Meyers or corporate attorney Mark Hinueber went over the package with us and explained how to file for unemployment and what to say. Those with 401(k)s can leave our money where it's at or cash it out to roll into an IRA (not recommended). Editor Mike Hengel was seen standing by a photographer as he cleared out his locker to ensure he didn't leave with company equipment.

Wow. That's just heartbreaking. Just because the corporate bastards act like greedy asses who don't take any pride in the quality of their product doesn't mean the former employees will, even in the darkest moments of their professional lives. Such demeaning treatment at the conclusion of long and honorable service is depressing and, sadly, quite normal today.

* Silence: Bob Brown, the new publisher who was the ad director, has told KNPR that there will be no press release about the careers he just wrecked. He hasn't responded to e-mail or phone calls from me, either. But KNPR is undeterred and recognizes the importance of this news, so I'll be on State of Nevada on Monday at 9 am PT discussing the firings and what it means for Las Vegas journalism. This will be my second appearance since my farewell interview, which is kind of funny but also a bit of an honor. Also, while I do appreciate the traffic and attention, I think it's sad that the Las Vegas Sun's only coverage of this matter was to provide a link here.

* Sherm: In the wake of such emotional news, I yesterday laid into Sherm Frederick, the disgraced former publisher of the Review-Journal. I do believe he made several terrible decisions and is owed some of the blame. But I also have heard -- and I remember from my own time there in the 1990s -- that he was always a staunch defender of his journalists having once been one and probably kept some people on longer than he should have because he had a personal connection with and empathy for them. That all can be true and honorable at the same time as he coasted along during the Vegas boom years and took credit for profits that were inevitable in that economy. What he never did was prepare for the next generation of journalism in any meaningful way and he just allowed a moldy old system to roll along unabated. But mostly, if Sherm is unwilling to take any responsibility for the economic condition of the newspaper -- and he won't because he's too vain and proud -- then someone needs to sit up and acknowledge that he deserves to be held accountable, too.


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

It's funny to me how everyone is so quick to point a fingers. I haven't met a non-profit newspaper in all of my years. Have you?

Morris Workman said...

"I haven't met a non-profit newspaper in all of my years. Have you?"

Yep, sure have. Rocky Mountain News, Seattle Post Intelligencer, Chicago Tribune, L.A. Times...all of them run almost as badly as the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Anonymous said...

After the many years of reading so much propaganda in the local newspaper, why should anyone care what happens to the "dead tree media" or any of the propagandists who have haunted that corrupt line of work?

It would be quite a remorseful event if the demise was bringing down a respectable defender of our liberty, or guardian of our First Amendment rights, but the R-J has declined into merely a gossip sheet, devoid of any credibility.

Anonymous said...

Having worked for L.A. Times and Gannett - and having been laid off from both, this severance seems standard - and given the state of what else is going on out there right now - they should be OK with the outcome. Let's face it, anyone working in "old media" needs to understand that (possibly) their days are numbered.

Anonymous said...

Jeff Wolf was a pro's pro. Sad to see him, along with everyone else who was laid off, leave the R-J. He was so loyal to the company, and this is what he got for that loyalty, as was the case with the others. The R-J just doesn't get it: the more people you fire, the lower your circulation sinks because you don't have enough people to cover the news that readers want. Stupid suits.