Paul Oberjuerge header image 2

More Carnage in the L.A. News Group

January 8th, 2009 · 3 Comments · LANG, Sports Journalism, The Sun

I’m not sure how many employees at what used to be the San Bernardino Sun-Ontario Bulletin-San Gabriel Valley Tribune were fired today, but it was more than one and … more than 10, even?

A couple of things:

1. One of those fired was my friend and former colleague Doug Padilla. I can’t imagine Doug was shocked. The rumors were out there that another round of cuts were coming, and ever since the L.A. News Group (LANG) gave up the Angels beat to the Orange County Register — which was Doug’s job — he didn’t have a clearly defined role, and not having a clearly defined role is a very dangerous place to be right now.

Not that he doesn’t have considerable talent. He is a fine reporter, and a veteran baseball beat writer who also has done layout and paginated 8-10 page sections on deadline. He is extremely well-rounded. It was his misfortune not to be pegged as any one of those things, here during the print crash. However, he is a resourceful guy with great people skills, and he will survive nicely, I’m confident.

2. I continue to be … oh, is “amazed” the right word? … “strangely impressed” … maybe “grotesquely fascinated” … that the same guys stick around to make all these cuts. Specifically, Steve Lambert and Frank Pine. I wrote months ago that there really (I mean, really) ought to come a time when anyone with a conscience says, “No, I won’t fire a bunch of people again” and removes himself from the situation. Lets someone else wield the ax.

For example:

We’ve seen the stories about editors who quit rather than rip up their newsrooms.  Some of those guys were on board with the early cuts — but balked when they had to go back in and whack a bunch more.

I wrote on this blog that any editor in a new situation can look around and decide (accurately, or otherwise) that X number of people are not critical to the operation.

So, every new editor (Russ Stanton, whoever) gets one bite of the poison-apple thing. That’s OK. It’s a hard world. You’re new, and you think you see ways to streamline things.

But it’s the second and, especially, subsequent, rounds of layoffs that brand a manager as … well, evil. Uncaring, at the least.

And the MediaNews/LANG guys like Steve Lambert and Frank Pine, who have presided over, essentially, the steady destruction of three papers (Pine) and six papers (Lambert) … how do they look at themselves in the mirror? How do they get up in the morning and think, “Well, gonna go fire some people again today!” … And start whistling as they go out the door? Guys, anyone can wreck a place; anyone can fire people. They don’t need you, and the implosion on your watches demonstrates you have no solutions. So, like, go. Owners like Dean Singleton can find willing executioners anywhere.

Newsroom managers in situations like that, the third or fourth or fifth round of firings … they need to remove themselves. Just as other editors have done.

If you’re the editor or managing editor of a place of any size … you ought to have some connections, real-world. Use them. Go teach journalism. Become somebody’s press spokesman. Go to work for a non-profit. Show that you have enough heart not to be part of this anymore — and enough talent to find some job where you don’t have to go on firing people indefinitely. What pride can you take in that?

Someone they know actually did this. Louis Amestoy, another former colleague of mine who became the de facto editor of The Sun and Bulletin —  jumped to the Press Enterprise in Riverside recently before firing anyone. He felt it coming, and he didn’t want to be part of it. (Well, that’s my take, Louis; you may have had other reasons.)

Anyway, LANG isn’t done. It’s being reported that Lambert & Co. turn their bloody attention to Long Beach, The Breeze and the L.A. Daily News on Thursday.

Good luck to everyone out there.  Expect the worst, even if it seems insane, because they are doing stuff that is just plain crazy. And if it doesn’t happen …well, you’re ahead of the game for a little bit, and maybe somehow things turn around before you hit the street.

But don’t count on it.  And also … don’t take it personally. At this point, the people managers didn’t like (me, for instance) already are long gone. Now it’s just salaries and numbers. Really. I doubt it’s about you. Maybe your salary, which seems a little high. But probably more like “I don’t really know that person” … or “I didn’t hire that guy” … or “we gave away that beat and don’t cover that anymore” situations.

Man. What a mess. My condolences to all shown the door, this week.


3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Chuck Hickey // Jan 8, 2009 at 8:23 AM

    Just a disaster with no end in sight. Good luck to Doug, a great great guy, and everyone else. Not a good time right now.

  • 2 BTN // Jan 10, 2009 at 1:56 PM

    Oh, man. I’m not sure /what/ a “safe” place to be even looks like right now, but it sure as hell isn’t the newspaper business.

    I fear one or both of the Chicago papers won’t last the end of the year, and take down another round of respected friends.

  • 3 Gregg // Jan 11, 2009 at 4:39 PM

    Just wanted to add my “This sucks” here. Doug livened up more than one sports department, press box, bar…and by the way was a very good reporter when he wasn’t making people laugh. As the newspaper biz squeezes way too many good people out of work, it’s become obvious that no one is immune. In fact, the quality of people who have been let go is turning into a pretty impressive club, and makes you wonder….

Leave a Comment