Baltimore Sun, Capital Gazette staffers take buyouts

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Photo by Brandon Weigel.

At least 11 Baltimore Sun Media Group employees accepted buyouts from Tribune Publishing, including three Capital Gazette journalists who reported on the shooting of their own newsroom, and long-time Sun journalists covering arts and University of Maryland athletics.

Photojournalist Joshua McKerrow, reporter Pat Furgurson and high school sports editor Bob Hough were among the 10 Capital Gazette staffers who shared a byline for the newspaper’s report on the 2018 shooting that killed five colleagues.

On Jan. 31, Hough announced on Twitter it was his final day with the paper. McKerrow announced his departure yesterday.

“I really wanted to stay,” tweeted McKerrow, who said he started at the Capital Gazette in 2004 after four years at The Aegis. “I really did.”

Last year the Capital Gazette staff received a $100,000 citation from the Pulitzer Prize Board “for demonstrating unflagging commitment to covering the news and serving their community at a time of unspeakable grief.”

At The Sun, University of Maryland athletics beat reporter Don Markus announced this morning he was leaving, sharing a picture of yellowing copy of a story he wrote in 1986 when the Terps men’s basketball team upset No. 1 UNC, 77-72.

The Baltimore Sun News Guild, the union representing the newsroom, said arts reporter Chris Kaltenbach, features editor Lori Sears and sports content editor Jennifer Badie also accepted buyouts. Four members on the ads staff also took the offer, Baltimore Fishbowl has learned.

Papers all across the company were hit by the staff reductions, according to figures shared by unions representing the newsrooms. More than a dozen left The Chicago Tribune. At least four at The Morning Call in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Twenty between The Virginian-Pilot, Daily Press, The Virginia Gazette and Tidewater Review.

A media blog in Connecticut noted two buyouts at the Hartford Courant.

Offers were announced on Jan. 13 and extended to anyone in the company with eight years of experience or more. CEO Tim Knight said at the time the company was still overly reliant on the revenue from print, even though digital subscriptions have surged.

The buyouts arrived two months after Alden Global Capital, a New York-based hedge fund once dubbed a “destroyer of newspapers” for its brutal cost-cutting at outlets such as The Denver Post, bought a 32 percent stake in Tribune, becoming the largest shareholder, and landed two seats on the company’s board.

Earlier this week, Knight stepped down as CEO after one year leading the company. The Baltimore Sun Guild tweeted that these departing words from Knight rang hollow: “This past year we have been focused on stabilizing Tribune financially so that we can continue to invest in quality, local journalism, which is the key to the company’s long-term success.”

“We need to see new @tribpub leadership better explain how a strategy of cutting to the bone to please Wall Street squares with plans ‘to invest in quality, local journalism.’ #SaveLocalNews,” the guild said.

Knight was replaced by CFO Terry Jimenez, who, according to the New York Post, has carried out a “bloodbath” in the C-suite.

Brandon Weigel

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