At least six Baltimore Sun Media Group employees, including the editor of the Capital Gazette, three longtime Baltimore Sun editors, an opinion writer and a reporter, have taken buyouts from the newspapers’ new owner, Alden Global Capital.
Alden, the New York-based hedge fund known for making drastic cuts to its newsrooms and squeezing out profits, in May acquired the newspapers’ then-parent company, Tribune Publishing Company.
Tribune shareholders on May 21 approved Alden’s $633 million bid to buy Tribune, despite efforts by staff and community members to steer the newspapers to local ownership, like Maryland businessman Stewart Bainum Jr.
Two days after the purchase, Alden offered buyouts to non-union employees.
Employees who have worked for the company for three or more consecutive years would receive 12 weeks of pay and an additional week of pay for each year with the company. Employees who have worked for the company for fewer than three years would receive eight weeks of pay.
The company had to negotiate any buyout offers for union employees with the local unions. But no union employees at the Baltimore Sun applied for buyouts, said environment reporter Scott Dance, who is the Baltimore Sun’s unit chair in the Washington-Baltimore News Guild.
Capital Gazette editor Rick Hutzell accepted a buyout, nearly three years after a gunman attacked the Capital newsroom on June 28, 2018 and killed five employees: Rob Hiaasen, Gerald Fischman, Wendi Winters, John McNamara and Rebecca Smith.
In his final column, Hutzell said that day in 2018 “was an attack not just on us or Freedom of the Press, but on this community as a whole.”
Following the shooting, Hutzell “became consumed with the notion that it was my purpose to save the paper.”
“A man with a shotgun tried to kill us — to kill me and the newspaper I’ve poured my life into for 33 years. I wasn’t going to let it die,” he said, adding that he was joined in that mission by his fellow journalists and other Tribune employees.
Hutzell said he has cherished being able to support so many staff members over his 33 years with the Capital Gazette.
“One of the greatest joys of my life has been generations of reporters, editors and photographers who are convinced they have an important contribution to make,” he said. “My job has been to help give birth to their successes.”
Also at the Capital Gazette, journalist Chase Cook tweeted that he accepted a buyout too.
This will be my last week at @capgaznews. Friday is my last day.
Kind of wild to be writing that. I took the voluntary buyout, and it was my decision 100%.
Those who know how to reach me can do so.
As for what is next? I’m gonna build a garden. I’ll figure it out after that.
— Chase Cook (The tiels are Poe and Stanley) (@chaseacook) June 14, 2021
Following the attack on the Capital newsroom, during which five of his colleagues were killed, Cook tweeted “I can tell you this: We are putting out a damn paper tomorrow.”
I can tell you this: We are putting out a damn paper tomorrow.
— Chase Cook (The tiels are Poe and Stanley) (@chaseacook) June 28, 2018
Time magazine named the staff of the Capital Gazette a Person of the Year 2018, among several other journalists around the world.
The Capital Gazette’s journalists, staff and editorial board also received a Pulitzer Prize Special Citation for their “courageous response” to the attack on their newsroom and “unflagging commitment to covering the news and serving their community at a time of unspeakable grief.”
Despite those accolades, Tribune permanently closed the Capital’s physical newsroom — along with closing the Carroll County Times newsroom and others across the company — in August 2020.
Andrea K. McDaniels, deputy editorial page editor for the Baltimore Sun, also took a buyout.
McDaniels, who previously worked as a business and health reporter for the Sun before moving to the opinion side of the paper, said in her own farewell column that the stories she most enjoyed writing were ones that highlighted “people doing good work in the community, showing strength and courage, but not necessarily looking for accolades.”
Since starting at the Sun in her 20s, “a small step above a cub reporter,” McDaniels said she covered nearly a dozen beats, including retail, marketing, small and minority business, health and medicine, business of health, manufacturing, biotechnology, and opinion writing.
McDaniels was one of the newspaper’s relatively few writers of color, and she said the newspaper needs to improve its relationship with the Black community, as well as the diversity of staff and sources. But while serving on the Sun’s diversity committee, McDaniels said she felt “leadership wants to make that better.”
Eileen Canzian, who edited government stories at the Baltimore Sun, has also taken a buyout.
Canzian leaves the newspaper “after decades as an editor who made our copy cleaner, clearer and more precise,” tweeted education reporter Liz Bowie, who is also a news co-chair for the Baltimore Sun in the Washington-Baltimore News Guild.
She edited government coverage and had her hands on nearly every story of significance in the last couple of years. Here’s to you Eileen for being such a force.
— Liz Bowie (@lizbowie) June 18, 2021
John E. McIntyre, a copy editor at the Baltimore Sun, took a buyout, retiring from the Baltimore Sun after 34 years of working there.
In a goodbye column, McIntyre recounts being turned away from the New York Times, who told him to “Get a job at a paper that takes editing seriously and call us again in two years.” He said he did the first part — getting hired at the Baltimore Sun — and never looked back.
“I had the satisfaction of working side by side with scores of reporters, photographers, and editors who took journalism seriously,” he wrote. “We have done many good things together, and we have done a number of great ones.”
The column concludes with the traditional journalistic closing, “-30-“, a bookend in McIntyre’s 34 years at the Sun.
On the blog for Memorial Episcopal Church in Bolton Hill, Baltimore Sun dining reporter Christina Tkacik reflected on her friendship with McIntyre, which began while the two filmed a video series about language.
“The Sun newsroom can be a really intimidating place for an early career journalist,” Tkacik wrote. “But befriending him while we filmed those videos made me feel like I actually belonged.”
In one of the videos, McIntyre argues that linguistic sticklerism “always carries with it a faint stench of class prejudice, of social superiority.” Instead, he makes the case for language that is precise but open to innovation.
“Language is always on the move,” he said.
Beyond McIntyre’s “deadpan sense of humor and impeccable style,” Tkacik said she most recalls his kindness.
“A few years ago I was grieving a death in the family, and he came over to ask how I was doing,” Tkacik said. “I could tell from the tone in his voice that he wasn’t just being polite, he actually cared.”
McIntyre added that he will occasionally post on his blog, and that he is “not gone yet.”
Tkacik tweeted that Baltimore Sun sports editor Gerry Jackson is also leaving the paper.
I failed to include sports editor Gerry Jackson. Thanks, Gerry, for all your years of service to The Sun.
Wishing everyone a wonderful next chapter.
— Christina Tkacik (@ChristinaTkacik) June 18, 2021
In a 2016 column marking Jackson’s departure from the Capital Gazette at the time to join the Baltimore Sun, sports reporter Bill Wagner credited Jackson for highlighting the importance of local sports coverage.
“It was under Jackson’s direction that this newspaper greatly expanded its local sports coverage,” Wagner wrote. “He completely bought into the local sports first philosophy and always made sure the high schools and Navy were prominently displayed.”
This latest round of buyouts comes after at least 13 Baltimore Sun Media Group employees accepted buyouts in 2020, including three of the 10 Capital Gazette staffers who shared a byline for the newspaper’s report on the 2018 shooting that killed five of their colleagues; a longtime sports columnist for the Baltimore Sun; and others.
Capital Gazette sports editor Tim Schwartz announced that he is also leaving the newspaper, but he did not take a buyout.
Today is my last day as sports editor at The Capital. I did not take a buyout. I won’t be going far and I’m excited to share more about my next move when the time is right. I thoroughly enjoyed my 18 months there and being part of that community. Excited for what’s next!
— Tim Schwartz (@TimSchwartz13) June 19, 2021