Sports columnist Peter Schmuck, whose byline has been in The Sun‘s pages for three decades, took a buyout from the city’s daily newspaper.
A member of the advertising staff also took the offer, said environment, science and weather reporter Scott Dance, who serves as unit chair of The Sun‘s union–meaning the newsroom is now protected from layoffs through the month of June.
Parent company Tribune Publishing had extended buyouts as another cost-cutting measure to offset the large declines in advertising caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
One week ago, The Sun‘s newsroom union agreed to permanent pay cuts for employees making $67,000 per year or more and to furloughs–concessions that were made, the union said, under the threat of five layoffs.
Under that agreement, Tribune said there would be no job cuts through the month of May, and if two staffers took buyouts, the protection would be extended another month.
Employees who make less than $67,000 will be furloughed for three weeks, while staffers who make more will be furloughed one week in addition to having their salaries slashed by 2 to 3 percent.
Last month, Tribune announced three-week furloughs for non-union employees who make between $40,000 and $67,000 a year and permanent pay cuts, ranging from 2 to 10 percent, for non-union workers earning more.
In a farewell column posted this morning, Schmuck remembered the good moments (Cal Ripken Jr. breaking Lou Gehrig’s consecutive game streak) and bad (the empty stadium game in 2015 during the Baltimore Uprising) from his career covering the Orioles at Camden Yards–a stadium whose pressbox he has worked in since it opened.
“Nearly three decades later, the ballpark doesn’t look a day older, but I certainly do,” he said. “I’ve aged in the ballpark’s place like the picture of Dorian Gray and witnessed just about every significant moment that has taken place there.”
His career also included two Super Bowls for the Baltimore Ravens and seeing two Triple Crown winners, American Pharoah and Justify, run at Pimlico Race Course.
“There were a lot of things that went into the decision, not the least of which is that I am of retirement age and do have grandkids I haven’t seen since February, even though they are close by,” he said via email. “My departure was totally voluntary and I’m grateful to both the union and The Sun for making it possible.”
As he wrote in his farewell, he’s planning on staying in the area. Schmuck told Baltimore Fishbowl he is still going to do his Saturday morning radio show on WBAL 1090, so this is really a “semi-retirement.”
“Not letting everyone off that easy,” he said.
In response to the salary reductions and furloughs, and years of cuts that have greatly reduced the size of the newsroom, the union launched the Save Our Sun campaign petitioning Tribune to sell the newspaper to a local group.
The Abell Foundation, the Goldseker Foundation and former Baltimore County Executive Ted Venetoulis have expressed their desire to acquire the paper and eventually turn it into a nonprofit.
“Return expectations are vastly different when being compared to a hedge fund,” Matthew D. Gallagher, president and CEO of the Goldseker Foundation, told Baltimore Fishbowl last week. “Our hope is with that kind of approach, if this were to come to pass, we could position The Sun on much more stable footing going forward and can reinvest back into the paper.”
On Monday, the paper’s staff won the Pulitzer Prize in local reporting for its coverage of the “Healthy Holly” scandal, which led to the resignation of Catherine Pugh and federal charges for the former mayor.
Dance said he hopes the increased media coverage of the Save Our Sun campaign will show Tribune shareholders that a sale is potentially benificial.
“We certainly hope the attention is something that Tribune can’t ignore,” he said.