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December 05, 2008

The Cuts Continue in the Free Press Newsroom

As readers know from our previous Blurt post, it's been a rough week for the Vermont media, including Seven Days. Here's an update on cuts at the Burlington Free Press...

The Free Press has laid off 14 employees; nine forced layoffs and five vacant positions that will be left unfilled — a six percent cut in staff. The paper has fared far better than some in their Gannett family chain of newspapers. One paper in Salinas, Calif. saw one-third of its 130 employees laid off.

To date, Gannett Blog has tallied close to 2,000 layoffs nationwide out of a newspaper division that employs 30,000.

In all, four people in this round were let go from the newsroom. The first let go on Wednesday were Rob Eley, a longtime editor, and Myra-Mathis Flynn, a features reporter. Then, yesterday, the paper let go Donna Myers who held a variety of support roles in the newsroom — from answering phones to taking down obituaries over the phone (back when such a task was required). She also wrote a religion feature for a services page the paper ran. Also laid off was Eva DeVries, the letters to the editor clerk for the paper.

A tough week for everyone who knew and worked with these folks at the Free Press (including myself).

Other than the four mentioned here, the newsroom will also lose two unfilled positions — a business reporter and the assistant managing editor post.

The remaining layoffs and vacancy savings have been spread out across several other departments, including sales and circulation.

Scuttlebutt is that there are no more immediate layoffs in store for the newsroom, so reporters and editors are breathing a temporary sigh of relief. But, sources say, more cuts at Gannett may be in the offing come February.

I think it is in very poor taste you would list the people's names who got let go. IS it really that important that we know the names? A couple of clerical folks get let go and we need to know their names? I don't think so. You crossed the line and you should appologize.

Dear Silly: Thanks for the note and the question. We print / post the names of people who get let go because we know them (often personally) and I believe they simply shouldn't become faceless numbers.

Many viewers and readers want to know who they will no longer see on screen and print, or who may no longer be a voice on the other end of the phone when they call the paper.

We also are provided these names, sometimes by those who have been laid off or their colleagues. In many instances those left behind reach out because they don't want their colleagues to be forgotten, or their years of good work to simply become a footnote in an economic crisis.

"Many viewers and readers want to know who they will no longer see on screen and print"

How does that apply to the clerks you named? Did they ask or agree to have her name printed?

This ratcheted-up tweaking of the Freeps is classless. You might want to go over the 7D sales projections before farting out another two or three such posts/stories - they're over there in the binder labeled "our glass house."

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