New layoffs at The Bee: Who?

Just one work day after union members voted to accept wage cuts and layoffs to postpone even more cuts, The Sacramento Bee started laying off some 128 employees in editorial and other departments Monday morning.

Among the names of those getting pink slips today were pop music writer Rachel Leibrock and sports writer Martin McNeal, as well as general assignment reporters Ramon Coronado, Melissa Nix, Walt Yost, sports writer Scott Howard-Cooper, and photographers Brian Baer and Florence Low. And for virtually the first time since the paper started shedding positions nearly three years ago, there were editors among the casualties.

Also leaving are IT wunderkind and newsroom gadfly Marco Smolich, and longtime newsroom aide George Costenbader. 

Coming after the departures of some 65 newsroom employees over the last year through buyouts and attrition, the layoffs further weaken The Bee’s news-gathering operation, bringing the editorial staff down to 190.

A number of positions are also being eliminated in advertising and the classified call center, as well as a graphic artist, an ad assistant and three people in the IT department. Other jobs in the packaging center are also being eliminated.

Early waves of departures have come over the last three years, after buy-out packages were offered to a range of names such as Bob Sylva, R.E. Graswich, Janet Fullwood and other name writers. The cuts have accelerated in the past year: The Bee’s Dale Kasler reported today that the paper has cut 301 jobs since last June, about a quarter of its staff. But unlike earlier rounds, this one featured little to soften the blow.

There could have been even more layoffs, if the Guild members hadn’t voted to accept the company’s latest conditions: 3 to 6 percent salary cuts, and a week’s unpaid furlough, and freezes in pension contributions and 401k matching contributions.  Accepting those conditions allowed management to keep 19 other employees on, at least for now.

According to today’s Bee, the news department is losing 29 union and non-union workers, or nearly 13 percent. That brings the total of newsroom jobs shed over the last year to about a quarter of the original 250 employees. Parent company McClatchy is laying off 1600 employees, or 15 percent of its work force.

There’s no guarantee that this will be the end. With McClatchy’s stock under fifty cents a share today (down from a high of $77), the future of the company looks bleak. 

It could have been worse. The Rocky Mountain News recently stopped publishing entirely, and both the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and the San Francisco Chronicle are apparently weeks or even days away from doing the same.

Ed Fletcher, a Bee reporter and shop steward for the Newspaper Guild’s unit at the paper, said in an email that he didn’t want to release the names of those being laid off yet, out of respect for their feelings.

But because they are, many of them, public figures whose departure is a loss to Sacramento, their names should be mentioned. So here, pieced together from different sources, is a list of the names of people said to be laid off today at The Sacramento Bee. If you heard other, or different, names, please comment below. Note that these are only half of the people being let go today.

Melissa Nix

Martin McNeal

Quwan Spears

Brian Baer

Florence Low

Rachel Leibrock

Terry Dvorak

Walt Yost

George Costenbader

Yvonne McKinney

Robert Faturechi

Scott Howard-Cooper

Rachael Bogert

Marco Smolich

Debbie Meredith

Chad Jones

Jennifer Morita

Ramon Coronado

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March 10, 2009 | 12:11 AM

Additionally it should be noted that the circulation department is moving to a non-employee distributorship model. This means the majority of circulation jobs were eliminated and their jobs given to independent contractors known as distributors.

March 10, 2009 | 8:07 AM

I find it reprehensible that this website has published a list of those laid off. These poor folks are dealing with an excruciating situation. Don’t rejoice in their misfortune. Whatever happened to helping your fellow man? Showing compassion? You’re no better than the vultures who go to crime scenes to gawk at the carnage. Shame on you.

March 10, 2009 | 5:57 PM

It’s not a list for rejoicing. Some of us want to know who’s been hit. We might like to send them a nice note, like your life will get better now that you’re not working for one of the meanest newsrooms in America.

March 10, 2009 | 9:09 PM

The names put a human touch on the story & makes it that more real – it sucks and I feel for all those who lost their job this round, and the rounds before. I hope that something positive happens and all could return soon. I send my best thoughts out to all of the names wether listed or not.

March 10, 2009 | 9:29 AM

I think it should be noted how much the McClatchy CEO Gary Pruitt makes in total compensation. Replacing him with an experienced newspaper person could have eased the cuts at the Bee for now. His self induced pay cut of 15% is not sufficient. Gary Pruitt should be given a “pink slip”
I agree with Newsmom in that posting there names was not to their advantage. Perhaps posting their names with their job title, length of employment with the Bee and any positive points that could be made about them possibly would have made them feel better about their departure. I will coin this term as a “Jobituary”. A jobituary is what is said about a person when their job has died.

March 10, 2009 | 11:22 AM

“Jobituary” – I like it! I had, in fact, meant to include details about the individuals involved, at least the ones I know, but I didn’t for a couple of reasons: I don’t know all of them or what they did, and it didn’t seem fair to single individuals out for special mention, though they certainly deserve it; I only mention a small percentage of the people who were laid off; and there is already resentment among the non-editorial former employees at The Bee, who feel that editorial employees never understood or appreciated what they do.
On the other hand, editorial is what I’ve lived my whole life following, and names like Marty McNeal’s mean something to readers. Indeed, to NOT note that McNeal and Melissa Nix and Ramon Coronado are leaving The Bee seems to me to be bad journalism and insensitive to the scope of the loss, to boot.
Beyond that, this is an industry collapsing, not just the part that makes the content. In fact, the content creators have suffered less than most employees at the newspaper factory on Q, and from what I’ve seen, they often end up getting better jobs – better than they had at The Bee, and better than people laid off in other departments.
Indeed, there is no shame in being laid off from a job. My point in publishing some of the names was to point out the LOSS of these valuable people to the paper and the community – their lives will go on, and they will land well somewhere. The loss – and in some degree, the shame – is not theirs.

Article Author
March 10, 2009 | 12:08 PM

Chill Newsmom. This is a news site and it has more Bee layoff news than I’ve read anywhere else in the city. Good job Sac Press! Besides, a little press might get ex Bee employees a new job. There’s no shame in being laid off these days. Voice of experience has spoken.

March 10, 2009 | 6:08 PM

Of the four newspapers I’ve worked at across the country, the B-minus was the worst staffed, worst managed and meanest snake pit of them all. Two clowns who were my bosses were poseurs at best, and of course got promoted to 6-figure posts. Where did they go? One destroyed marketing. The other went to sacbee.com, and we know how that worked out. Thanks for getting the names. I don’t know any of them. On the bright side, they’ll be helping the cause for single-payer universal health care now that their “daddy” employer won’t be taking care of them anymore. Next up, filling out the questionnaire for individual insurance. It is rigged, and you won’t qualify.

March 10, 2009 | 6:41 PM

Here they all are:
http://www.beeguildnow.org/

March 10, 2009 | 9:46 PM

In 1985, after more than one year of negotiations between management and The Guild, I was “consolidated” from the Bee with good share of other staff writers. I was 30 years old, bitter and thought it was the end of journalistic career. The decision then wasn’t based on talent or loyalty or any other tangible reason. It was largely based on the vicious nature of a manager, who eventually got unceremoniously demoted, too. And It’s likely Monday’s decision, at least in some cases, was also unfair to reporters who have had illustrious careers at the Bee. It’s easy to say now after nearly a quarter century away from the newspaper, but to those who have been laid off, you will be better to be away from 21st & Q Streets. Walk away proud. Better things are on the horizon. Best of luck. Cheers, James Raia, http://www.byjamesraia.com.

March 11, 2009 | 10:28 AM

I appreciate the publishing of the names and agree with the posters about the information being important for readers and colleagues to know. I have asked editor Melanie Sill repeatedly to at least release the names of reporters whose bylines routinely were published…

March 11, 2009 | 12:49 PM

An addendum to the story: I just got a handful more names (see the Bee guild blog linked above): The shockers are artists Charles Waltmire and Brian Ching, as well as environmental reporter – and former Neiman Fellow – Chris Bowman. Huge losses.

Article Author
March 16, 2009 | 12:27 AM

I often disagreed with the slant of some of Martin McNeal’s sports columns, but the thought that they got rid of him and kept someone like Ailene Voisin is really disgusting. Scott Howard-Cooper’s loss is also a great blow to the Bee’s sports writing team, as is Rachel Leibrock for entertainment.

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March 22, 2009 | 3:06 PM

I am happy to see that Q. Spears was layed off. While I usually turn from the news and don’t read the paper about lay off, this one I applaud and thank you for keeping Mr. Davidson who seems to be a better match when reporting high school sports. I am praying for the Bee and it employees and if you hire Q. Spears back hire him to write about WNBA and NBA because he had no tack when it comes to our future generation. His comments border on NaNaNa, elementary school name calling and when our children reach high school we do not need adults to bring our children self esteem down and than maybe you could hire him for another town, he has no faith in our area children. He does very little to encourage, well maybe some children he does, he is like a teacher with a pet and if he is criticize by an adukt for his writting on a child he take it out on a child. Mr. Spears what goes around comes around and if you render evil, evil will never depart from your home. Remember that the next time you are writting about children and if you have any children or plan to have them in the future, remember how you want them to be treated. Constructive advice is good, but never on a child appearance do you make comments, you never know the pain you will cause them or thier family.

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