Thursday, April 23, 2009

Read this Tribune piece that newspaper execs would rather you not; the loss of too many good journalists is why most papers won't survive

I had the privilege yesterday to catch up with Tim Ghianni, a former Tennessean columnist who was the only scribe in my time there to win the state AP's top award for commentary.

The guy could tell a story and spur a cause. More than anything, he just knew his community, and his readers loved him for it. Ghianni was part of a group of good, hustling journalists who came over from the Nashville Banner.

The day its owners decided to sell out to Gannett and close was the worst day in Nashville journalism. Everyone ultimately lost from that deal except the profiteers.

After I lost my job at The Tennessean, Ghianni accepted one of many buyouts America's news execs and managers have used to clear out a lot of the best talent and institutional knowledge in newsrooms. He served a stint as a Vanderbilt journalist in residence. He continues to write, and I'll post his writing on the passing of Banner Editor Eddie Jones on April 5.

Jones deserves to be remembered. The Banner knew Nashville as a newspaper should.

The point of me telling you about Ghianni is that he represents why print journalism will never rebound, and will probably continue to crater. When journalists like him leave and others forced out, the industry just loses another piece of its soul and further connection with its readers.

Below, you'll find another casualty, ironically a reporter directed by his managers at The Chicago Tribune to write a personal blog on the recession. His diary spoke of his family's fight to make ends meet.

Then, this week, he got laid off by the very newspaper that asked him to write about the effect of the recession on his household. I know that sounds hard to believe. The absolute cruelty of it and other decisions by newsroom managers across this nation -- who have no business having authority over the lives of good people -- are legion in what used to be my profession.

Below is the writer's last blog post for his diary. The Tribune pulled it down from its website. They did not want you or any other readers to see it.

But it deserves to be read. The Tribune Co. recently asked a bankruptcy judge to approve $13 million in bonuses to managers making these kind of decisions. Gannett, which owns The Tennessean, has been no kinder in its decisions while its execs and top editors still enjoy their bonuses and excesses. One high corporate exec recently charged the company $15,000 for his entry in a pro-am golf tournament. He then paid for it himself after his brazen act was revealed on

Such an act is considered bad form when the entry fee represents half a laid-off journalist's salary.

For all the good and talented journalists who have left our profession or been forced out, there will be justice one day.

For now, let us not forget and find new ways to keep up with our friends -- who also happened to be our readers:

Goodbye from Lou Carlozo

The recession has truly hit home.

This will be my last post as a Chicago Tribune staff writer, and the author of the Recession Diaries.

Today, just an hour ago, I received word that this will be my last week as a Chicago Tribune employee. So as you can see, no one is immune from the recession–not even someone who writes about it daily, diligently and with an eye towards serving those who have had their bank accounts drained, their retirement accounts dashed, their hearts broken, and their hopes placed under a dangling sword of despair.

I, for one, refuse to be bitter or ungrateful. While it will take me some time to process being unemployed after 20-odd years in the field I love, I recognize now how much I need to take the advice I gave to you with every ounce of my passion. That is: Account for those things no recession can take away from you. Your faith in God. Your family. Your friends. Your health. Your many blessings.

I am part of an industry-wide trend that will likely result in the death of print journalism within five years time. That is not what the higher-ups would like me to tell you, nor is it a result of anything wrong that they have done. On the contrary, I admire Sam Zell and all he has done to keep this company going. I have not always agreed with the new ownership’s decisions or rationale, but my opinions come from an uniformed perspective. I write for deadline; I do not know the intricacies of finance and balancing the books. (Perhaps my early dispatches on the recession front have proved this.)

So where will I be? Looking for a job. Playing with my kids. Walking, talking and praying with my wife. And of course, praying for and hopefully hearing from you, my readers, who have made this year of 2009 one of the most rewarding ever. I started in this business in 1989 as a long-haired kid without a clue about journalism, but a heart for the written word, public service and fighting for the little guy. My hair has long since vanished–oh, the vagaries of middle age!–but the idealist and optimist in me refuses to walk gently into that good night. Nor will I allow it to do so.

Also, a tip of the hat to the best boss a man could ask for, Lara Weber. It was her idea to start this blog, and without her inspiration, support, and most of all guidance and good cheer, I could not have achieved anything on the recession reporting front. She’s a woman any journalist would be lucky to call boss, confidant and dear, dear friend. I will miss you, Lara.

Please stay in touch, and wish me luck.
In God’s Peace, Lou

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