It seems the layoff of 50 people who used to work for the Sun-Sentinel Community News Group recently (See Undercurrents,August 10) has caused some concern among staffers at the daily paper. It also appears that there's reason to be concerned: The smaller daily papers in the Tribune Co. group will help pay for the costly purchase of the Los Angeles Times.
Some newsroom employees here in Fort Lauderdale were recently called into meetings and told there would be some belt tightening at the daily, and they should watch expenses. Others told us that the rumor mill was grinding about a hiring freeze and a reduction in the editorial budget that could amount to $1 million next year.
"The word is [management] won't be filling positions, and they'll look at consolidating some jobs," according to a male reporter who didn't want to be identified. "We're worried that raises will be hard to come by, and that's not right because the Sun-Sentinel is a successful paper that's making money."
Another man with a byline was blunter: "We don't want to pay for those assholes in L.A.; the Times and the Tribune paper in Chicago are grossly overstaffed."
Now that the $8 billion Times-Mirror purchase has been made, newspaper-industry analysts know that the Tribune Co. will have to demonstrate that it continues to run one of the tightest ships in the multimedia world. This means selling off properties or closing them, which it's recently done. But it also has to cut costs to maintain a profit margin near 30 percent, which in turn will help boost the sagging stock.
No one here is whispering about layoffs. Yet.
Managing Editor Ellen Soeteber tells us there was a consolidation of two newsroom management jobs, but the copyeditors and reporters shouldn't be affected.
As to whether the higher-ups had requested budget cuts, she says, "A reduction in budget is being considered. It hasn't been decided." She pointed to an increase in the price of paper as one reason to be frugal in ongoing budget considerations.
Soon after getting off the phone with her, we heard from yet another newsroom employee with the latest rumor: Editors are discussing the possibility of eliminating the Sunday paper's Sunshine magazine.
While reporting for a recent New Timescover story ("I Want a New Drug,"Emma Trelles, July 13), we spoke candidly with the BSO's crime lab about the drug substance GHB and its prevalence in the community. Typical facts and stats were shared with hardly a hair of subterfuge.
Yet after the issue hit the stands, bigwigs at the BSO issued a memorandum reminding all the agency's employees that any interaction with the media needs to be cleared through its public information office (PIO). Maybe Sheriff Ken Jenne's crew didn't take well to our first-person account of a GHB dose. Maybe the screening is just another way of spinning "public information" to the benefit of the always-running-for-office sheriff.
The BSO says screening requests through the PIO makes it more convenient for the media because reporters find out who to talk to. Well maybe. And sometimes it just keeps us from the truth. Regardless, an unreturned call to the crime lab might be proof that the mandate is now indeed being heeded.